McConnell: 'Good chance' for infrastructure deal after talks unravel

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Jayapal to Dems: Ditch bipartisanship, go it alone on infrastructure The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Biden's European trip MORE (R-Ky.) said on Thursday that Republicans "haven't given up hope" for a bipartisan infrastructure deal with the Biden administration, even after the White House ended talks earlier this week with a group of Republicans.

"We haven't given up hope that we'll be able to reach a deal on something really important for the country that we really need to accomplish, and that is a major infrastructure bill," McConnell said during an interview with Fox News.

"Yeah, I think it's clearly possible. We haven't given up on reaching an agreement on infrastructure. ... I think there's a good chance we can get there," he added.


McConnell's optimism is a shift from as recently as Thursday, when he was publicly chiding President BidenJoe BidenFormer Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building Saudis picked up drugs in Cairo used to kill Khashoggi: report Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting MORE for ending talks with a GOP-only group led by Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Biden fails to break GOP 'fever' Pelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals MORE (R-W.Va.).

"President Biden showed that his patience for the smart, bipartisan approach was wearing thin," McConnell said.

The mantle for bipartisan negotiations has shifted to a group of roughly 10 senators, split between the two parties, who have been having closed-door meetings this week to try to see if they can break the stalemate. Biden has also been in touch with the group, which is led by Sens. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaIn Congress, what goes on behind closed doors? Pelosi urges Democrats to pass voting rights bills: 'The clock is ticking on our democracy' Sinema breaks her foot running marathon MORE (D-Ariz.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanKerry Washington backs For the People Act: 'Black and Brown voters are being specifically targeted' This week: Democrats face fractures in spending fight UK appeals to Congress in push for trade deal MORE (R-Ohio).

Republicans in the group briefed McConnell on Wednesday about their talks.

“He said based on what’s heard that he’s open to it,” Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals What the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua MORE (R-La.), a member of the group, told reporters on Thursday. 


McConnell, on Thursday, appeared to publicly give his blessing to their talks, calling them the "core group" negotiating.

The group is expected to be working on a proposal of roughly $900 billion, though senators have been careful to stress that they haven't locked down a top-line figure. They have said they've ruled out raising taxes as they try to figure out how to pay for their proposal — a perennial sticking point in infrastructure talks in recent years.

But there's widespread, bipartisan skepticism that the group will be able to come up with something that can get 60 votes.

“I wish them well,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate confirms Garland's successor to appeals court Bipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Rising crime rejuvenates gun control debate on campaign trail MORE (R-Texas) said. “But two people talking or a small group of people talking doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get buy-in from the larger Senate.” 

The talks have also sparked frustration within the Democratic caucus, where several members are ready to try to pass infrastructure under reconciliation, which allows them to bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster.

But Democrats will need all 50 of their members in order to do so, which they don't yet have.