Mitch McConnell Rips President Joe Biden Over Breakdown in Infrastructure Talks

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ripped the Biden administration on Wednesday for cutting off infrastructure negotiations with U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who has had multiple conversations directly with President Joe Biden in recent days to try to hash out an agreement that GOP lawmakers could get behind.

"[Capito]'s led several of our colleagues in literally exhaustive efforts to put a bipartisan deal within reach," the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor on Wednesday. "An agreement requires that actually each side is willing to give up some of what it wants, and as we learned yesterday, President Biden is unwilling to let go of some of the most radical promises he made to the left wing of his party."

Republicans have homed in on Biden's decision to lump non-traditional infrastructure programs into the package—an issue McConnell again highlighted Wednesday.

"At every step of the way, Republicans have focused on targeted investments in roads, bridges, airports, waterways and broadband infrastructure the American people actually need," he said. "But yesterday President Biden showed that his patience for the smart bipartisan approach was wearing thin."

Biden announced Tuesday he was pivoting away from Capito, who had been leading his negotiations with Republicans to try to reach an agreement on what he's proposed to be a massive nearly $2 trillion infrastructure package that would go beyond roads and bridges, extending to home health care workers and child care. Biden recently has been in touch with U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, both Democrats, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, to try to forge a new path toward an infrastructure agreement.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday the package Capito was advocating "did not, in [Biden's] view, meet the essential needs of our country."

"[Biden] offered his gratitude to her for her efforts and good faith conversations, but expressed his disappointment that, while he was willing to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, the Republican group had increased their proposed new investments by only $150 billion," she said.

Biden has since pivoted to courting moderate Democrats and Republicans to try to build support for his broader plan.

The White House didn't immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Biden has advocated the large infrastructure investment as an economic stimulus that would touch on other priorities, including environmental and family concerns as the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Capito, meanwhile, said in a statement the breakdown ultimately centered on taxes and who would pay for the programs Biden hoped to create.

"In our discussions with the president he himself made it clear that he was willing to accept an offer around $1 trillion, that baseline spending would and could be included, and that a plan could stretch over an eight-year period of time," she said. "Despite the progress we made in our negotiations, the president continued to respond with offers that included tax increases as his pay-for, instead of practical options that would have not been harmful to individuals, families and small businesses."

Biden has struggled to build consensus around his most divisive priorities in the U.S. Senate, where the Democratic Party's control is razor-thin with a 50-50 split. Bills in the Senate, under current rules, require 60 votes for passage, and conservative Democrats led by Manchin, of West Virginia, have opposed changes to the filibuster rule that would carve an easier path for Democratic priorities with only a majority vote needed.

Mitch McConnell goes after Biden infrastructure talks
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a press conference following the Republicans policy luncheon in the Russell Senate Office Building on pm June 8 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images