How Democrats Defeated Mitch McConnell

Eric Medlin
3 min readAug 3, 2022

They finally outsmarted their opponents.

Senators Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer. Source: Politico

The Biden administration has been revived. Last Wednesday, Joe Manchin announced that he and Senator Chuck Schumer had reached a deal on the Build Back Better plan, now known as the Inflation Reduction Act. This new agreement gave Democrats over $300 billion in green energy spending as well as health care reforms and spending for oil drilling in the United States. The agreement was baffling to most observers. They had spent months convinced that Manchin was constantly moving the goalposts on a deal. The reports from three weeks ago about the negotiations blowing up seemed convincing. Why did everything change?

Joe Manchin was likely going to vote for a BBB compromise deal eventually. Negotiations dragged on as long as they did because Democrats spent months trying not to conciliate the West Virginia senator. The party refused to structure the bill to his liking. They constantly tried to tweak the bill to satisfy their own stakeholders. While the party had leverage over most of those stakeholders, they had no leverage over Manchin. Therefore, he could hold out for months, long enough for practically every Democrat to cave and write a bill that did exactly what he wanted to the letter.

Manchin then took another step that ended up truly trapping Republicans. His decision last month to end negotiations was likely a sincere expression of frustration. But the announcement seemed to herald Manchin’s true colors to both parties. Republicans and Democrats bought into the “liberal” media’s narrative on the West Virginia senator. Never mind the fact that Manchin was a Democrat, a Biden-supporting Trump critic who bemoaned Senate Republicans and supported every one of the president’s judicial nominations. Both parties became convinced that Manchin would never be happy and never support a BBB-style bill.

The next step came from an issue where Mitch McConnell often emerges victorious. A bill for improving semiconductor production in the United States, the CHIPS act, had stalled in the Senate. McConnell objected to the bill due to a perceived frustration at Democrats pushing a partisan reconciliation bill. The minority leader did not care that most of his party supported the policies behind the bill or that he had no qualms with reconciliation when his…

Eric Medlin

I’m a writer interested in the intersections of history, ideas, and politics. I publish every week.