President Joe Biden weighed in on his predecessor’s ongoing impeachment trial on Thursday while meeting with a bipartisan group of senators gathered to talk infrastructure but said he’s focused on his own job and the promises he’s made.
The senators met with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office before Thursday’s impeachment proceedings are expected to get underway at the US Capitol.
Biden said he watched the news but didn’t watch any of the hearing live because he was working until shortly after 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday. “But I watched some this morning,” Biden added.
“I think the Senate has a very important job to complete and I think my guess is some minds may have been changed, but I don’t know,” the President said.
His meeting with senators to discuss rebuilding America’s infrastructure served to show how the White House looks to move ahead with its agenda despite the trial.
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A senior White House official said the infrastructure meeting with senators “would be happening with or without impeachment,” as the White House signals an infrastructure bill is one of the administration’s top legislative priorities.
“We still have to govern,”the official said. “The impeachment is not going to stop us from doing that. They can walk and chew gum.”
Biden said he “could think of no better group of people” than the senators at the meeting to begin conversations about how to move forward with bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
Biden noted infrastructure hasn’t been a bipartisan issue, saying, “There are not many Republican or Democratic roads and bridges.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also joined the Oval Office meeting virtually. Buttigieg is quarantining after a member of his security detail tested positive for Covid-19.
Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the chairman and top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, respectively, were present at the meeting.
Also attending were Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.
Biden also said he was on the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping for “two straight hours” on Wednesday, and said: “If we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch.”
He said China was investing billions of dollars in transportation and the environment, among other issues.
“We just have to step up,” Biden said.
The President sees a sweeping infrastructure package as a central legislative priority for his first year in office and critical to his economic recovery plan, CNN has reported. The plan could be an area to work with Republicans, with infrastructure widely seen as the most likely area where the two parties could strike a deal.
Biden has also tied rebuilding America’s infrastructure to his climate plan, which is another top priority of his administration. He has spoken about how he plans to create jobs and rebuild crumbling roads and bridges while turning the country toward electric vehicles and reducing energy consumption.
The President was also expected to discuss his coronavirus relief package with the senators.
Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package that includes $1,400 stimulus checks, more aid for the unemployed, the hungry and those facing eviction, additional support for small businesses, state and local governments and increased funding for vaccinations and testing.
Both chambers of Congress last week passed a budget resolution that sets the stage for Democrats to be able to use a process known as budget reconciliation to pass Biden’s sweeping Covid-19 relief bill on a party-line vote.
The President has said he is willing to go forward without the support of Republicans, but has said he’s willing to make certain concessions if the package will earn bipartisan support.
A bipartisan deal is his preference, the President has said, but he has stressed the need to pass immediate and substantial relief to address the pandemic and economic crisis gripping the nation.