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 will be 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. 

President Biden and Senator Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, left, with President Joe Biden after Biden arrived at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Ky., on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023.

Patrick Semansky / AP

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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