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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) makes his way to the Senate chamber during the Senate vote-a-rama. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) credited President Biden on Tuesday for his role in getting the Senate to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Why it matters: It's a rare flash of praise from the Republican leader, who has previously said that 100% of his focus is on "stopping" the Biden administration's agenda.

  • McConnell applauded Biden's role in getting Democrats to support the bill — which was negotiated mostly by a bipartisan group of centrists — and push it across the finish line.
  • "There’s nothing to back you up like the promise of a presidential signatory, if you’re in the same party as the president," McConnell told the Wall Street Journal. "And so I think the president deserves a lot of credit for getting the Democrats open to reaching a bipartisan agreement on this bill."

Between the lines: By voting for the infrastructure package, McConnell and Republicans are seeking to show that the Senate is not too polarized to function — which could stave off Democratic attempts to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster and pass more of their agenda without Republican votes.

The big picture: McConnell also rejected criticism from former President Trump and other Republicans who said that he was giving the Democrats a victory before the 2022 midterm elections, per the WSJ.

  • "Infrastructure is popular with both Republicans and Democrats," McConnell said.
  • “The American people, divided, sent us a 50-50 Senate and a narrowly divided House. I don’t think the message from that was, ‘Do absolutely nothing.’ And if you’re going to find an area of potential agreement, I can’t think of a better one than infrastructure, which is desperately needed."
  • The Senate voted 69-30 on Tuesday to pass the package, with 19 Senate Republicans voted in favor, including McConnell.
  • President Biden on Tuesday thanked McConnell for supporting the bill. "I know compromise is hard for both sides, but it’s important — it’s important, it’s necessary — for a democracy to be able to function," Biden said.

What to watch: Despite the rare reprieve from partisanship, McConnell maintained that Republicans will likely not help Democrats pass federal voting legislation or other top Democratic priorities.

  • But, that doesn't mean McConnell will block everything. "When they want to try to do something in the middle, we can talk," he said.

Go deeper ... "Long overdue": Biden praises Senate passage of bipartisan infrastructure package

Go deeper

Nov 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Sen. Sinema hits Dem leaders over honesty, false promises

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) leaves the Capitol for the day in October. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) criticized Democratic leadership in a wide-ranging interview with Politico published Wednesday for making false promises by setting expectations for the social spending bill and other legislation far too high.

Why it matters: Sinema said that the pledges amount to dishonesty with Americans because they are made with the presumption of agreement within the party, which she believes is an unrealistic and potentially hazardous expectation in a diverse democracy.

Democrats draw up plan B for paid leave after Manchin veto

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are privately reaching out to Republicans to cinch a separate, bipartisan deal for paid family leave after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) crushed hopes of including it in President Biden's $1.75 trillion social spending plan.

Why it matters: The end-around is part of a broader effort to provide paid time off from work to care for others, regardless of the method. Some Republicans sound amenable, depending on the timing.

Nov 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Dems, progressive groups outspend Republicans on Build Back Better ads

Expand chart
Data: Kantar/CMAG; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Democrats and progressive groups are trouncing Republicans and corporate America on Senate ads surrounding President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, according to data from Kantar/CMAG.

Why it matters: With the fate of the president’s $1.75 trillion social spending and climate plan resting in the Senate, outside groups have flooded the airwaves to build — or undermine — political support for the package.

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