Congress

Even the Senate minority leader’s No. 2 didn’t know until the last minute where he would land. His fellow Republicans still aren’t sure.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (L) and Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) (R) at a news briefing at the U.S. Capitol on July 27. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

By BURGESS EVERETT and MARIANNE LEVINE

07/31/2021 07:00 AM EDT

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Moments before the Senate took a pivotal vote on its bipartisan infrastructure deal, negotiators zeroed in on the most important undecided member: Mitch McConnell.

The Senate minority leader stayed quiet for weeks but finally tipped his hand on Wednesday afternoon on the floor to a bipartisan group of colleagues, according to senators and aides. He told them he would support moving ahead on the bill, provided that the legislation coming to a final vote was their agreement — not something written by Senate Democrats.

It was the first inkling, among even McConnell’s closest allies, that the Kentucky Republican would support one of President Joe Biden’s top priorities: a bipartisan effort to plow $550 billion in new spending to roads, bridges, public transit and broadband. No senator in McConnell’s inner circle knew that he was about to take the plunge until moments before the vote, and some didn’t know until McConnell broke the news on Twitter.

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