In Hill talks, Biden takes down the temperature in push for commitments and an end game

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7 min read
fairly easy
President Joe Biden didn't enter the back-to-back-back meetings on Wednesday with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers demanding a deal -- or even looking for one. Things are simply too far apart for that at the moment.
(CNN)

But he did demand action, according to lawmakers and officials involved in the meetings.

Through four hours and 21 minutes, Biden probed, cajoled, praised, told a few stories and made sure lawmakers had access to the individually-wrapped chocolate chip cookies with the gold embossed White House seal provided for snacks.

He urged lawmakers not just to find common ground, but also to explicitly lay out what they would accept in a deal, according to multiple participants.

Biden wasn't just seeking to shake up a process that appeared to have run into a brick wall, they said. Fully aware of a compressed time window for action, he was actively searching out the end game.

The bottom line

Lawmakers and White House officials were universal in the view that progress was made. All said the temperature, which had reached an intraparty boiling point, had started to come down. Yet all also acknowledged the same thing: the real work comes in the next few days.

What to watch

Biden's public schedule is quite open on Thursday. Expect it to fill up with more meetings with lawmakers, White House officials say -- something that will likely be a regular occurrence in the days ahead.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. ET.

Where the divides stand

The meetings were substantive. They were detailed, with multiple lawmakers laying out priorities and issues across the key planks of Biden's proposal, from child care and paid leave, to concerns over the structure of specific tax proposals.

There are, in short, a lot of policy details still to be hammered out, even if the key elements of the plan are both widely agreed upon -- and widely supported.

But the reality remains this: Moderate Democrats won't accept a $3.5 trillion package. Progressives made clear they view $3.5 trillion as a compromise already.

White House officials have acknowledged for more than a week that the size of the package would have to be scaled back in order…
Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox, CNN
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