Biden and McConnell appear together in Kentucky as House Republicans are in disarray
In what's sure to be a proverbial split-screen image, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is appearing alongside President Biden in Kentucky Wednesday to talk infrastructure improvements, at the same time that House Republicans enter a second day of the 118th Congress without having coalesced around a speaker.
The president and the top Senate Republican are visiting the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Kentucky and Ohio to announce more than $2 billion in investments from the bipartisan infrastructure law to upgrade that bridge and other bridges across the country. On Wednesday, Mr. Biden and McConnell were accompanied by Ohio's Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, former Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman, Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, underscoring the bipartisan support for infrastructure improvements.
In Kentucky, Mr. Biden was effusive in his praise of McConnell, calling him "my friend and colleague of many years -- and, I might add, longest-serving Leader in the United States Senate."
He said the infrastructure bill "wouldn't have gotten done" without McConnell, and the president thanked him.
"Leader McConnell and I don't agree on everything. In fact, we disagree on a lot of things," Mr. Biden said. "But here's what matters: He's a man of his word. When he gives you his word, you can take it to the bank; you can count on it. And he's willing to find common ground to get things done for the country."
He went on to say that he wanted to start off the year highlighting the bridge between Ohio and Kentucky with the bipartisan group "because I believe it sends an important message — an important message to the entire country: We can work together."
"We can get things done. We can move the nation forward," he said. "We just drop a little bit of our egos and focus on what is needed in the country."
Meanwhile, back in Washington, Republicans have so far stalemated on who will take the speaker's gavel, as House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy failed to clinch the speakership in three failed rounds of voting on Tuesday. Nineteen Republicans voted for someone else in the first two rounds, and in the third round of voting, 20 Republicans opted to vote for GOP Rep. Jim Jordan instead. As of Wednesday morning, the path forward wasn't clear, and no member of the House can be sworn in until there's a speaker.
As President Joe Biden departed the White House for Kentucky Wednesday morning, he jabbed a little at Republicans.
"I just think it's really embarrassing it's taking so long, he said, adding, "This is the United States of America. I hope they get their act together."
Still, the president said he isn't concerned about his ability to govern as the debacle in the House continues.
The Senate has fewer lawmakers who each represent states, as opposed to House members, many of whom represent isolated and homogenous districts, and senators are elected for six-year terms rather than two-year terms. It has historically acted with bipartisanship more frequently than the House, leading the way in recent months on legislation like the omnibus spending measure and the bipartisan infrastructure law.
While McCarthy struggles for a second day to round up the votes to be speaker, McConnell, his counterpart in the Senate, just broke the record for longest serving party leader in the Senate, entering his ninth two-year term as Senate majority leader. He commemorated the occasion with a Senate floor speech Tuesday to praise the man whose record he broke, the late Democratic senator from Montana, Mike Mansfield.
Mansfield "sought to serve the Senate as a whole," McConnell said. "He got things done without blowing up bedrock. He mostly defended the Senate's idiosyncrasies, traditions, and pace, rather than tearing them down."
The Senate swore in its members on Tuesday.
Mr. Biden will deliver remarks in Kentucky at 12:45 p.m. ET, and the House gavels in at noon, although it's unclear whether any votes on the new speaker will take place immediately.
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