Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is privately telling his members to separate a bipartisan infrastructure deal from Democrats' $3.5 trillion spending plan, Politico is reporting.
Aside from questioning the financing, McConnell has not offered much criticism of the bipartisan agreement.
"I think there's a decent chance that it may come together," he said last week, according to the New York Post. "All I've said is, I would like for it to be paid for. We've added quite enough to the national debt."
"This ought to be credibly paid for. That discussion is underway."
Referring to work on a spending package, McConnell said: "This is going to be a hell of a fight over what this country ought to look like in the future and it's going to unfold here in the next few weeks. I don't think we've had a bigger difference of opinion between the two parties."
And Politico noted his approach reflects the split among Senate Republicans over whether to join with Democrats on part of President Joe Biden's spending plans while fighting over the rest.
Politico pointed out that one of McConnell's close allies, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, serves as the senior Republican negotiator.
And sources told the outlet that McConnell is aware of the bipartisan appeal that infrastructure improvements hold. In addition, he sees it as less ideological than other proposals from Democrats.
In addition, McConnell is making an effort not to be seen as the face of the plan's opposition.
"He usually is the brunt of the demonization of the other side," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. "I don't think he is Dr. No when it comes to all legislation."
And Democrats have noticed a change in McConnell's approach.
"His problem is that many of his members like what's in it," Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said. "McConnell is going to have a hard time keeping his caucus together if he decides to oppose it."
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who helped negotiate the bipartisan framework, expressed doubt that McConnell would kill the deal.
"I don't think it would be smart for him to do that, so I don't think he will," Tester said. "It's better for them to pass the bipartisan bill and let the Democrats fight it out on the $3.5 trillion bill."
Reuters reported that President Joe Biden met with Democrats on Wednesday to seek their support and to discuss a strategy for passing both the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, and the larger Democrat plan that also addresses climate change and the need for stronger social services.
"With inflation raging ... (the Democrats' budget plan) is wildly out of proportion to what the country needs right now," he told reporters.
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