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Biden’s bipartisanship: What we learned from the president’s meeting with lawmakers

Congress returns from recess this week, and as we reported earlier, the first stop for a bipartisan group of lawmakers was the White House — invited by the president as he works to sell his American Jobs Plan on infrastructure and climate. Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins joins us for an update.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congress returns from recess this week, and, as we reported earlier, the first stop for a bipartisan group of lawmakers was the White House, invited by the president, as he works to sell his American Jobs Plan on infrastructure and climate.

    Lisa Desjardins has joins us now for an update.

    So, hello, Lisa.

    This was not the usual group of bipartisan lawmakers we see going to the White House.

    Tell us what is going on. What are we learning from this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    We know that this is a huge effort for the Biden administration. This is something that they see as a once-in-a-generation investment in this country, $2.4 trillion, none of it related to the COVID crisis, all just about infrastructure, jobs, different elements of American life.

    And let's look at the photo of who was there. It was Republicans and Democrats both. There you see two senators on the couch, House members, senators on the right, House members on the left. For social distancing, you can't see all of them in that photo.

    But I can tell you, those numbers were generally people involved in transportation in some way or another in Congress. But I noticed something else important about this group, because the president doesn't just need to sell it to members of Congress. They are critical. He has to sell it to the country.

    So, look at a map of where the eight members of Congress who were at this meeting are from. The blue and red represent Democrats and Republicans who were in the meeting. You see, this is a geographic spread, not just Republican and Democrat. The president here is clearly trying to bring together the whole country and point out that one thing all these lawmakers have in common is needs for infrastructure, water, all of this kind of stuff.

    So ,it is a very high-stakes kind of negotiation here. And he's trying to bring in people from all ends of the spectrum.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, where do things stand? What does it look like for this proposed measure?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This meeting told us a lot.

    We know that President Biden, one of the representatives in the meeting, Representative Payne, told me and other reporters that he actually — he was very open to many different ideas for this large plan, including potentially an increase in the federal gas tax. Apparently, President Biden says 5 cents is a possibility.

    He didn't stick to it, but he said this is something he would consider, also raising fees for perhaps electric vehicles, which now don't pay, of course, into a gas tax. That is something Republicans liked.

    But, Judy, at the end of the day, there was still a clear difference inside. Republicans think this proposal is way too large. President Biden wants to go big. But everyone came away from this meeting saying they do feel the president was sincere in trying to get some kind of agreement going between both parties.

    It is going to be hard to do. Overall, where are we? I think we are still months away from really knowing exactly how this shapes up. They're really deciding the menu here. To talk about dinnertime across America, it is like they are figuring out the menu of a very large buffet. They are not really even cooking on the stove yet. These are early days, but very important ones.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We like the analogy of cooking, since it's dinnertime.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I'm hungry.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much.

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