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The fate of a bridge over the Ohio River shows political cooperation is possible

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Republican majority in the House of Representatives is preparing for a third day of trying to elect a speaker. Other politicians, including President Biden, were free to move elsewhere yesterday. NPR's Asma Khalid reports on Biden's visit to the site of an old bridge across the Ohio River into Kentucky.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: The president used the word embarrassing three times yesterday, in public, to describe the chaos in the House of Representatives.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It's embarrassing for the country.

KHALID: But in a split-screen moment, 500 miles from Washington in Covington, Ky...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KHALID: ...Biden was trying to give an example of how government ought to work. And frankly, he wasn't the only one.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

ANDY BESHEAR: What's possible when we push partisanship aside?

SHERROD BROWN: This is what bipartisanship in the United States of America should look like.

MIKE DEWINE: It's Democrats and Republicans coming together.

KHALID: That was Kentucky's Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, Ohio's Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown and Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine. All these men were talking about the infrastructure law Congress passed in 2021 because that money is starting to flow to bridges, like the one they were standing in front of. About $1.6 billion is going to improve the Brent Spence Bridge. It's a key artery that carries traffic across Kentucky and Ohio. But the president spoke about this not just being a bridge between two states but a bridge between people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: A bridge that continues and connects different centuries, different states, different political parties, a bridge to the vision of America I know we all believe in, where we can work together to get things done.

KHALID: Biden rode over the site with someone who's often been a roadblock to the Democratic agenda, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Biden said the two discussed foreign policy, specifically Ukraine, on the drive. It was an expression of unity, but they both acknowledged their differences.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: We all know these are really partisan times, but I always feel, no matter who gets elected, once it's all over, we ought to look for things we can agree on and try to do those, even while we have big differences on other things.

KHALID: McConnell has been a partisan for decades. But for a day, these two Washington insiders, Biden and McConnell, could look out at a steamboat on the Ohio River by a metal bridge and show that Washington can work, even if back in Washington, the House of Representatives is not working.

Asma Khalid, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.