President Biden is meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders from both houses of Congress for the first time since taking office, pressing them on his proposals to spend $4 trillion for infrastructure and families.
The meeting at the White House includes Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader; Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader; and their counterparts in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader.
In comments to reporters as the group gathered in the Oval Office on Wednesday morning, Mr. Biden said that he hoped they might find common ground on spending for infrastructure. He joked that he would just “snap my fingers” to achieve that goal despite fierce Republican opposition to his plans.
“The bottom line here is we’re going to see whether we can reach some consensus on a compromise,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re going to talk a lot about infrastructure.”
White House officials previewing the meeting said the president intended to discuss the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which seeks to expand access to education, reduce the cost of child care and support women in the work force, and the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, which is aimed at infrastructure spending.
Republicans have balked at the idea of spending an additional $4 trillion after Democrats pushed through $1.9 trillion in stimulus spending at the start of Mr. Biden’s term without any Republican votes. Some Republicans have proposed smaller packages aimed at more targeted improvements to infrastructure and have said that Mr. Biden’s proposals amount to a tax increase on middle-class Americans.
In remarks on the floor of the Senate before the meeting, Mr. McConnell said that he was prepared to try to find common ground with Mr. Biden on traditional transportation and water infrastructure projects. But he gave no indication that he expected a major reconciliation with the Democratic president, who Mr. McConnell asserted had veered toward far-left liberalism after campaigning on bipartisanship.
The Republican leader said that he hoped the meeting would mark “the start of a new course correction for this White House.” But he peppered in familiar attacks on Mr. Biden for good measure, suggesting that the president’s coronavirus relief package had slowed job growth and was driving “dizzying” inflation.
“If the president can remember that he promised to govern for all Americans, not just the far left. If my Democratic friends can remember they have just a 50-50 Senate and a closely divided House, not exactly a sweeping mandate for a socialist agenda,” Mr. McConnell said. “Then there is much that we could deliver together for the country.”
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that Mr. Biden would not accept “inaction” or actions that would raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 per year.
“Those are not areas where he is going to move,” Ms. Psaki said.
Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have toured the country in recent weeks arguing that the spending is necessary to create jobs and ensure that the economic recovery from one of the nation’s deepest recessions doesn’t lose momentum. They have defended the infrastructure proposal from criticism that it includes too much spending on social services programs unrelated to the traditional road-rail-and-sewer definition of infrastructure.
Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.