WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on a sunswept but windy White House lawn on Monday afternoon amid the pageantry of horns and a stream of accolades from politicians.
At nearly the same time, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was instead about a mile and a half down the street on the Senate floor, hammering the “Democrats’ inflation crisis,” essentially ignoring the legislation he ultimately voted for.
The scenes amounted to a split-screen illustrative of the continual stubborn partisan divide in Washington, even on a day of a historic bipartisan achievement.
On Kentucky radio last week, McConnell said he wouldn’t attend the White House ceremony because he had “things I’ve got to do other than go to the signing ceremony.”
In reality, that meant continuing to verbally thrash Democrats as they attempt to reach consensus on their larger, more controversial Build Back Better plan that includes a slew of spending on social programs and climate initiatives.
It also meant pinning Democrats with blame for America’s mushrooming inflation, which has risen to its highest rate in three decades, according to Labor Department data.
“The Democrats’ inflation crisis has gotten so bad that Washington Democrats have stopped trying to pretend that it’s just transitory and starting to admit that it’s on them to fix it,” McConnell said. “The same Democrats who spent months denying that inflation was a lasting problem, the last people in America to wake up to this reality, are now convinced they’re just the people to fix it.”
Although McConnell did not mention infrastructure in his Senate remarks on Monday, one Republican who attended the White House ceremony cited McConnell.
“Senator Mitch McConnell, to his credit, supported our efforts to find a way forward and eventually lent his critical support,” said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the key GOP negotiator on infrastructure.
Biden also shouted out McConnell for “voting for this bill and talking about how useful and important it is.”
But like McConnell, most Republicans steered clear of the White House event, as many conservatives across the country issued threats against GOPers who voted for the infrastructure bill.
Much of the vitriol was fomented by former President Donald Trump, who claimed in a statement that the bill will only help elect Democrats in 2022 and 2024 giving Biden and his party “a victory just as they were falling off the cliff.”
“Based on the fact that the Old Crow convinced many Republican Senators to vote for the bill, greatly jeopardizing their chance of winning re-election, and that he led the way, he should go to the signing and put up with the scorn from Great Republican Patriots that are already lambasting him,” Trump said.
McConnell was one of 19 Senate Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill, along with 13 Republicans in the House. At home in Kentucky, McConnell has called the bill “a godsend” for the money that will be allocated to repair and replace aging roads and bridges.
But the Trump-led backlash against the bill explains why McConnell hasn’t spent much time heralding it as a major achievement back in Washington, where his comments are magnified nationally.
Democrats aren’t about to let Americans forget that Biden’s biggest legislative achievement to date was rubber-stamped by McConnell.
The headline of one press release they deployed last week: “President Biden’s Infrastructure Deal is a Big Deal, Just Ask Mitch McConnell.”
Still, as evidenced on Monday, McConnell seems much more comfortable moving on to attack the Democrats’ spending bill that boasts no Republican support.
“They cooked up this massive multi-trillion dollar spending spree back when they were just saying inflation wasn’t a major problem, and it was still time to spend like crazy,” he said. “But now miraculously that exact same spending binge happens to be their prescription to fight inflation. So give me a break.”