At times, Biden also seemed open to some of the Republican ideas, only to catch himself — making his ultimate goals unclear to those in the room, attendees said.

“It’s a give and take,” Capito said. “So, he was trying to give, I think, but he would rein himself back in, in the end. But it was interesting.”

Republican senators said Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, kept conspicuously shaking his head from his perch in the back of the Oval Office.

Klain disagreed when he thought the Republicans had their facts wrong, according to a senior administration official, or when he considered their proposals hypocritical.

Exasperated White House advisers insist there was no daylight between the president and his team and that, while he wanted hear the Republican senators out, he was also firm in his position. “Everyone is acting like this is indicative of the White House’s legislative strategy,” said one top adviser. “He shook his head in a meeting.”