The rumbling on the floor “was the first time I heard of it. And then boom, the tweet came out right after that, ”said Senator John Thune (RS.D.), McConnell’s first deputy as GOP whip. “The leader kind of let everyone do their own thing, and they did. And he did his own thing.
That McConnell took so much care before revealing his position reflects deep divisions in his lecture over whether to give Biden a victory over a precariously funded bill that was not even drafted as it is. arrived in the Senate. McConnell had opposed the bill on procedural grounds just over a week ago, lamenting that moving forward with unwritten legislation made no sense.
But this week McConnell has done just that, twice pushing forward the bipartisan infrastructure plan despite having split his conference – something he loath to do. Shortly before the vote and after McConnell announced his position on Wednesday, Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a frequent detractor, put his arm on the GOP leader and offered some warm words after predicting that he would oppose the bill.
Schatz declined to comment on his conversation with McConnell, but admitted he was “surprised” by the support thus far of the self-proclaimed “Grim Reaper” in the Democratic Legislative Chamber.
“I’m happy to admit I was wrong” if McConnell continues to support the bill, Schatz said.
“He said he wanted us to be successful and he was able to be there at the end. I think he realizes that this is important for the institution, ”said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one of the bill’s chief negotiators. “He probably looked at it and said, ‘Yeah, that’s kind of the way we used to do things. “”
McConnell also speculates that if he and his party become the face of filibuster, it could cause moderate Democrats like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema to hesitate over filibuster, advisers said. So, in order to keep his veto power intact, McConnell takes a more conciliatory approach to infrastructure, which he sees as less ideological compared to other issues.
Yet McConnell’s hallmark is the GOP’s opposition to the Democratic government. And he faces everything but unity in the days to come. Only 18 of the Senate’s 50 Republicans backed advancing the infrastructure deal, with every presumed 2024 presidential candidate voting no. Only two members of McConnell’s six-person core management team voted positively on the bill.
To complicate matters for Republicans, former President Donald Trump vehemently opposes the bipartisan proposal. He even threatened to oust Republicans who backed him around ten minutes after McConnell announced his own position.
Thune opposed the advancement of the bipartisan cadre, as did Republican Conference President John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Republican Conference Vice President Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and President of the campaign Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who attacked him. as “insane deficit spending”. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former whip who could succeed McConnell, also voted against, even delivering a speech criticizing the effort as “not ready” for the Senate.
Still, McConnell hailed the effort as a “targeted compromise,” even going so far as to say this week that he was “happy” to push it forward. At the same time, he has done everything possible to strangle complementary legislation to the bipartisan bill, a Democratic-only spending plan that raises taxes for the rich and spends up to $ 3.5 trillion.
Questions remain as to whether McConnell will support the final product, though there is a growing sense that ultimately the longtime GOP leader will stand by the bipartisan negotiators and his friend Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who helped write the bill.
“I always thought he was for this bill. I think he’s been for the bill since day one, ”said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), Who objected to going forward.
McConnell is not flogging his members for supporting the bill, and there are no plans to develop a conference-wide recommendation to support it, according to a Republican senator. Ultimately, that means McConnell could be on some sort of island in a GOP conference that offered him unanimous support as the party’s chief electoral officer.
Still, it is entirely possible that the number of Republican votes will increase as the Senate continues its work. Thune and Cornyn said they were undecided on the final product, although Barrasso said “it’s going to be difficult” to back him up.
Ernst said she could vote for the bill if she had the legislation, time to assess it and if it helps her state’s biofuels industry. Senior Republican Senator for his state, Chuck Grassley, supported the legislation.
“I know this is a very popular bill. I think [McConnell’s] glad that we are working on a bipartisan bill, where we have our input, ”Ernst said in an interview on Friday. “He didn’t ask me to support him. I think he is convinced that we should each assess this bill for ourselves. “
Among McConnell’s leadership team, only Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), The outgoing chair of the policy committee, supported the bill forward. And his vote doesn’t come from any conversation with McConnell.
“When I said I was going to vote yes, I had no idea McConnell was going to vote yes,” Blunt said, adding that McConnell’s vote was not “widely shared with the conference.”
Despite McConnell’s particular desire to regain a majority next year, he has largely allowed its members to draw their own conclusions in an equally divided Senate where each member is a significant center of power. Earlier this year, he told members that their decision in Trump’s impeachment trial was a “vote of conscience.” But McConnell also actively whipped his conference against the candidates and vigorously opposed an independent commission proposal on Jan.6.
McConnell’s stance on infrastructure, at least so far, is even more favorable than his approach to the 2013 immigration bill, which he opposed but did not actively try to block. He has also surprised his colleagues at times, voting for Democratic candidates like Merrick Garland and Loretta Lynch and notoriously overturning his blockade on a criminal justice reform bill in 2018.
This year, with full control of Washington for the first time in a decade, Democrats have made it clear that they will continue their agenda with or without GOP support. McConnell and the dozen Senate Republicans who joined him in infrastructure votes are calculating that it is better to put the Republican seal on something than to be ripped off on everything.
“There were only two choices here. One option is: we do a bipartisan bill. And the other option is this: the Democrats themselves draft a bill. There is no “do nothing” option, said Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), another negotiator of the bipartisan agreement. “Leader McConnell recognized that this was a better option than just letting the Democrats do it themselves. “