Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell celebrated the passage of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Monday, saying it could pave the way to fix the aging Brent Spence Bridge connecting northern Kentucky to Ohio.
McConnell was the only member of Kentucky’s Republican congressional delegation to vote in favor of the measure when the Senate passed it in August. Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, of Louisville, also voted in favor of it.
“I was delighted the House finally found a way to pass the infrastructure bill last week,” McConnell said in Covington on Monday. “This will be the first time I have come up here in a quarter of a century where I thought maybe there was a way forward on the Brent Spence Bridge.”
The bridge connecting Covington to Cincinnati is a major artery on the I-71/75 corridor and has been in need of repairs for years. The Federal Highway Administration declared the bridge functionally obsolete in the 1990s.
About 170,000 vehicles cross the 58-year-old double-decker bridge every day. The bridge was closed for several weeks last year due to a fire and fully reopened Monday after an eight-month cleaning and painting operation.
Kentucky can expect to receive more than $5 billion from the federal package, including $4.6 billion for highway programs and $438 million for bridge replacement and repairs.
McConnell said states would largely determine how to divvy up the money.
Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Republican from Taylor Mill and chair of the Kentucky Senate budget committee, said the state will likely have to pay for some of the Brent Spence Bridge project, but lawmakers are still waiting for specifics.
“There’s a lot of optimism this will go a long way to making that happen,” McDaniel said.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said he talked to McConnell about the bill after its passage and said it would help fund necessary projects.
“This is what we’re supposed to do, come together so we can do the right things for the people of Kentucky,” Beshear said in a video statement on Saturday.
McConnell voted in favor of the infrastructure bill this summer despite pressure from former President Donald Trump.
Trump issued a statement on Sunday criticizing Republicans who supported the measure and singling out McConnell.
“All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves, in particular Mitch McConnell, for granting a two month stay which allowed the Democrats time to work things out at our Country’s, and the Republican Party’s, expense!,” Trump wrote.
McConnell said he isn’t worried about the Republican Party splitting due to the former president, saying “elections going forward are about the present, not the past.”
He said he’s optimistic about Republicans’ chances of winning control of the House and Senate during midterm elections next year.
“I think the key to ‘22 is to have a discussion with the American people about the new administration, the Democratic Congress and what they’re doing. I think the election will be about the future and not the past,” McConnell said.
When asked if he was concerned the infrastructure bill would spend too much money, McConnell said the spending will be worth it.
“It’s largely paid for, it’s a lot closer to being paid for than anything we did last year on a bipartisan basis responding to the 100-year pandemic. We all agreed, this is the time when you need to go into debt when you have a 100-year pandemic,” McConnell said.
McConnell said he doesn’t support Biden’s more expansive $1.75 trillion social spending package that could receive a vote later this month, saying “the American people aren’t interested in seeing this going any further.”