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Biden courts Hill leaders, but GOP won’t budge on big deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite sharing pleasantries at the White House, Republican congressional leaders signaled no willingness Wednesday to embrace President Joe Biden’s ideas for a massive infrastructure investment, insisting instead on a much smaller package and rejecting the idea of raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for it.

Biden hosted the top four congressional leaders for the first time and said in the Oval Office session that he was willing to compromise on his $4 trillion jobs and families proposals. After nearly two hours, both sides agreed on the need for public works spending, and they emerged pledging to work together — as much as they can.

But the stark resistance from Republicans to the size and scope of the package, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s “red line” against corporate and upper-income tax increases, leaves Democrats in the familiar position of embarking on potentially drawn-out negotiations that may, or may not, produce a bipartisan deal.

“Let’s see if we can get an agreement to kick-start this, and then fight over what’s left,” Biden said later on MSNBC.

The gathering brought together Biden’s top Democratic allies — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York — as well as McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California. Vice President Kamala Harris sat next to Biden.

While it was the first such meeting of Biden’s presidency, the setting was a familiar White House scene of powerful party leaders, who can make or break an administration’s legislative agenda, formally arrayed around the president. The mood overall was described as not antagonistic, according to a person familiar with the private meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it. The last such encounter ended with Pelosi standing to confront then-President Donald Trump.

Schumer told reporters back on Capitol Hill that it was a “good meeting” and that the two sides would “try hard” to work together.

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