Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw cold water on a bipartisan proposal to revitalize the Voting Rights Act, dooming any hope of Congress taking action on voting rights this summer.
McConnell formally came out against the bipartisan proposal by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act as an alternative to S. 1, the For The People Act, Democrats' wide-ranging voting rights and democracy reform package.
"As you look at what the Majority Leader has in mind for June, it's pretty clear the era of bipartisanship is over," McConnell told reporters at the Capitol. "We've passed six bills so far this year — significant bills on a bipartisan basis — bills that came out of committee that had buy-in from both sides, but I think that's coming to a screeching halt."
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, commented earlier Tuesday that talks seemed to be "running into a brick wall."
McConnell's comments came after President Joe Biden ended talks with a group of Republican senators on a big infrastructure package and started reaching out to senators from both parties as he works to build bipartisan compromise on his top legislative priority.
The president is walking away from talks with lead Republican negotiator Sen. Shelley Moore Capito after the two spoke Tuesday, according to an administration official granted anonymity to discuss the private thinking. The president's view is that she negotiated in good faith and he would welcome her in the bipartisan talks, the official noted.
The breakdown comes as the two sides failed to broker the divide over the scope of the president's sweeping infrastructure investment and how to pay for it.
Republicans offered a $928 billion proposal, which included about $330 billion in new spending — but not as much as Biden's $1.7 trillion investment proposal for rebuilding the nation's roads, bridges, highways and other infrastructure, including VA hospitals and care centers.
The talks broke down over two core issues, the official pointed out. The Republican senators could not come up significantly in the dollar amount of new investment or devise specific ways to pay for it.
Biden rejected the GOP senators' suggestion of tapping unspent COVID-19 money to fund the new infrastructure spending.
At the same time, Biden has begun reaching out to other senators, including Republicans who are part of a bipartisan group with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, that is meeting later Tuesday at the Capitol to negotiate a fresh proposal.
The president is expected to engage with lawmakers while he sets out this week on his first foreign trip for an economic summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in Europe.