Biden Hosts Business, Labor Chiefs Amid Infrastructure Drama

President Joe Biden hosted business and labor leaders at the White House on Thursday as a bipartisan group of senators neared an agreement that would allow the chamber to begin debating infrastructure legislation.

Biden stressed how notable it was that two sides used to being at odds had instead joined together to back the bipartisan infrastructure framework. “They’re not here to negotiate with one another,” he said. Rather, “they’re supporting what we’re trying to get done in infrastructure.”

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked debate on the still-unfinished plan, though a group of GOP centrists say they will agree to debate on the $579 billion bill early next week after more details are hammered out. The White House continues to be confident that a bill will eventually pass, but Biden is nonetheless gently nudging lawmakers to get it done.

Attendees representing business groups at Thursday’s meeting included Josh Bolten, the chief executive officer of the Business Roundtable and a former White House chief of staff to President George W. Bush, and Suzanne Clark, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Union presidents including Lonnie Stephenson of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Terry O’Sullivan of the Laborers’ International Union of North America and Kenneth Rigmaiden of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, also attended.

The leaders, Biden said, “share my belief that it’s both in the interest of business and labor to get this done. And it’s not about energy and that lot versus environment, business versus labor. It’s all about basically a race to the future.”

Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association and a top climate adviser in the Obama administration who was considered for roles in the Biden administration; Michael Lamach, chair of the board of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, also attended, as did Brent Booker, secretary-treasurer of North America’s Building Trades Unions.

Labor leaders met with Biden in February as he pressed for passage of the American Rescue Plan, as did a group of chief executives including Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Doug McMillon of Walmart Inc.

Earlier this month, the Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO, together with groups representing manufacturers, retailers and builders, joined forces to encourage lawmakers to get their infrastructure framework to the finish line.

“Now is the time to turn these promises into projects,” their Coalition for Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment said in a statement. “We urge Congress to turn this framework into legislation that will be signed into law.”

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