Senate

McConnell: ‘Good chance’ for infrastructure deal after talks unravel

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Biden for ending talks with a GOP-only group led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (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 Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (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 Cassidy (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 Cornyn (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. 

Tags Bill Cassidy Infrastructure Joe Biden John Cornyn Kyrsten Sinema Mitch McConnell Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito

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