Following McConnell declaration last week that he’s "100%" focused on blocking Biden’s agenda and with McCarthy aligning himself with the faction in his party that questions the legitimacy of the 2020 election, there’s little expectation of a breakthrough.
However, the coming week still could prove pivotal for chances of an agreement on the infrastructure portion of Biden’s suite of long-term economic proposals.
The White House session, which includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, is scheduled the same day as the Senate committee attempts to advance a bipartisan China-focused manufacturing bill widely seen as a test case for deal-making.
Both sides will be armed with Friday’s jobs report, which showed vastly weaker than expected U.S. job gains in April. Payrolls rose 266,000, less than half the median forecast, while unemployment edged up to 6.1%.
The White House insisted the report demonstrates the need for the infrastructure and manufacturing-focused American Jobs Plan and social safety net-focused American Families Plan. "We’re still digging our way out of a very deep hole we were put in," Biden stated Friday.
The president and other Democrats also suggested the data should quiet the alarms being raised by Republicans, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, that the flood of government spending will ignite inflation.
Republicans countered that the hiring shortfall proved it was time to roll back expanded unemployment benefits, claiming they were stopping people from going back to work. It also stiffened GOP opposition to the tax increases on the wealthy and corporations that are a central part of the Biden package.
"This is a stunning economic setback, and unequivocal proof that President Biden is sabotaging our jobs recovery with promises of higher taxes and regulation on local businesses that discourage hiring and driving jobs overseas," Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House tax-writing committee, declared.
But previously, Republicans had cited stronger economic data as showing there was no need for additional government spending. That argument may resurface in coming months as more adults get vaccinated, spurring a return to the job market.
The debate over the jobs report comes as Biden and top Democrats continue to say they want to explore moving at least part of the Biden plan through Congress with Republican cooperation before resorting to a partisan budget process to try to ram it through with only Democratic votes. Democrats say that moderates in their party will not consider the partisan approach until a sincere effort at a deal is made.
It is unclear whether new GOP demands to end the $300 per week supplemental unemployment benefit in order to attempt to boost the labor supply will become a feature of the infrastructure talks.