McConnell undecided on bipartisan infrastructure plan

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Julia Nikhinson

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that he hasn’t yet made a decision on whether to support an infrastructure deal between President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators, but that he has concerns about how it’s being paid for.

McConnell said during a press conference in Louisville, Ky., that he and other Republicans want to see a score from the Congressional Budget Office to know whether the ways being touted to pay for the bill by the bipartisan group will actually cover the cost of their five-year $973 billion spending plan.

Asked by a reporter whether he would support the package, McConnell said, “I haven’t decided yet.”

“But I’ve certainly encouraged our members to talk to the Democrats,” he said. “We need to get a score, so we need to see whether the proposal is credibly paid for.”

McConnell pointed out that disputes over the ways to pay for the plan have undermined past efforts to pass infrastructure investment legislation.

“It’s been challenging to figure out exactly how we can pay for it in a way that’s comforting to both sides,” he said.

The GOP leader emphasized that Democratic leaders need to back away from any pledge to rank-and-file members that they would pass a scaled-down bipartisan infrastructure bill and a larger budget reconciliation bill that would include Biden’s more partisan priorities in tandem.

“I think it’s fair to say I’d like to see us get there and I do think the only we can get there is to delink the two issues, they are really separate issues,” McConnell said.

His comments followed a statement he released earlier in the day calling on Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to “walk-back their threats that they will refuse to send the president a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they also separately pass trillions of dollars for unrelated tax hikes, wasteful spending, and Green New Deal socialism.”

McConnell’s call for Schumer and Pelosi to say they will not directly tie a bipartisan infrastructure deal to the passage of a larger budget reconciliation bill is a new tactic.

The GOP leader told Fox News’s Bret Baier in May that Democrats “are in the majority” and “don’t need my permission to decide how they want to pursue something” when asked if he would agree to a separate bipartisan package knowing Democrats would attempt to use reconciliation to pass other parts of Biden’s agenda.

Progressive Democrats at the time, however, were not insisting that the bipartisan package be “welded” to a larger reconciliation bill or that both bills be part of one big deal.

Biden caused an uproar among Republicans on Thursday when he pledged he wouldn’t sign a bipartisan infrastructure package on its own, declaring: “I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem.”

The president later walked back his comments over the weekend, stating of the bipartisan deal: “I gave my word to support the infrastructure plan, and that’s what I intend to do.”

That reassured moderate Republicans who negotiated the framework, including Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Bill Cassidy (La.), but McConnell says he wants a similar commitment from Schumer and Pelosi.

“I appreciate the president saying he’s willing to deal with infrastructure separately but he doesn’t control the Congress. The Speaker and the majority leader of the Senate will determine the order, so what I did this morning was call on the president to ask the majority leader and the Speaker to deal with these issues separately,” McConnell told reporters in Louisville.

“That’s the way the deal was negotiated according to the 10 Republicans, I can assure you, who were in the discussion. There was no agreement that they would be linked,” he added. 

Tags Bill Cassidy budget reconciliation Charles Schumer Filibuster Infrastructure Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Rob Portman

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