Trump hosts Hill leaders for ice breaker

Trump hosts Hill leaders for ice breaker
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Democratic leaders emerged Monday from their first White House meeting with President Trump voicing hope that the sides can find common ground on issues as diverse as healthcare, infrastructure and trade.

The meeting, attended by the eight top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders from both chambers and Vice President Pence, was universally described as a “social gathering” on Trump’s first full workday as president.

But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the group also spoke broadly about specific policy areas where they can unite over shared goals.

“We talked about some things related to trade with China, currency manipulation and … [the] piracy of our intellectual property, on which we were on the same page,” she told a pair of reporters in the Capitol just hours after praising Trump’s move to pull the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

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Pelosi also said they spoke of possible agreement on an infrastructure and transportation package — provided it features direct federal spending in lieu of the public-private partnership structure favored by many Republicans.

“It has to be real infrastructure, not tax breaks that allow somebody to be subsidized by the federal government to build something and then charge tolls to the taxpayer who's already subsidizing that purpose,” she said.

Leaders from both parties described the roughly hourlong meeting in the mostly empty State Dining Room as an informal get-together or ice breaker that touched on a range of topics but didn’t get too deep into policy details. Leaders noshed on meatballs, shrimp cocktail and sliders, according to a pool report.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called it a “macro conversation,” while Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) described it as a “get-to-know-one-another meeting.”

“It was really just a social meeting … everything at the 30,000-foot level,” Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed MORE (R-Texas) told reporters as he returned to the Capitol.

Trump kicked off the meeting by rattling off names of shared acquaintances in he a Schumer’s home state of New York. Trump aides who attended parts of the gathering included chief of staff Reince Priebus, Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner.

Both Hoyer and Pelosi said Democrats pushed back against the Republicans’ plans to repeal ObamaCare. But the Democrats are ready to work with Republicans on any reforms that accomplish the same goals as the Democrats’ 2010 healthcare reform law.

"What the Affordable Care Act has been successful in doing is improving quality, expanding access and lowering costs,” Pelosi said. “And any proposal that they might have that does that, we'd be interested in hearing about.”

Pelosi said the Democrats highlighted areas where they’d worked closely with President George W. Bush, including an energy bill.

But she also emphasized that any policy debate must hinge on facts — a remark of heightened significance given that both Trump and members of his communications team made demonstrably false assertions over the weekend about the inauguration turnout.

"We have always stipulated to a number. That is to say, if we're going to have a conversation we have to adhere it to a set of facts,” Pelosi said.

After the bipartisan meeting, Trump held a one-on-one meeting with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday MORE (R-Wis.) to discuss the 2017 legislative agenda and schedule.

Talks continued Monday night as Ryan hosted Pence for dinner in the Speaker’s office.

Entering the Capitol, Pence reiterated that Republicans will repeal and replace Obamacare “simultaneously.” When asked when exactly, the vice president replied: “We're working out the details.”

The Ryan meetings come just days before the joint GOP issues-retreat in downtown Philadelphia. Both Trump and Pence are expected to address House and Senate Republicans on Thursday at the annual gathering.

On Monday, Trump and Ryan discussed such issues as the next steps on repealing and replacing ObamaCare, rolling back federal regulations, tax reform, rebuilding the military and securing the border, Ryan’s office said.

“The Speaker and President Trump are eager to continue moving forward on their shared agenda to jumpstart the economy and get the country back on track,” said Ryan spokesman Doug Andres.

Rafael Bernal and Jordan Fabian contributed.