The Struggle for the Soul of America: Manchin and Schumer to McConnell and the Republicans, “Gotcha!”

Did Democrats Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer pull a fast one on Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, or what?

A month ago, Sen. McConnell declared, “Let me be perfectly clear. There will be no bipartisan USICA (a $52 billion bill to support the U.S. semiconductor industry) as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill.”[1]

Two weeks later Sen. Manchin put the brakes on the Democrats’ reconciliation bill. Believing that the partisan bill was dead, McConnell and 16 of his Republican colleagues then joined with all 50 Democrats to pass the CHIPS semiconductor bill on July 27. Within hours Sens. Manchin and Schumer announced an agreement on a $740 billion reconciliation bill[2] that McConnell can’t derail.[3]

It was the kind of cunning maneuver McConnell is known for, but this time the Democrats were in the driver’s seat. McConnell has been sticking it to the Dems for way too long. Could this just be the beginning of the payback McConnell and his right-wing colleagues clearly deserve?

The Democrats are finally learning to play hardball. And, right in the nick of time. With the mid-term elections fast approaching, the Dems need to demonstrate to the voting public the stark differences between them and the GOP. Forcing Republicans to vote on popular legislation they oppose, especially if the bill ultimately fails, helps the Dems make the case that the public needs to vote more Democrats into office if they want these bills to pass.

For example, take the bill enacting the right to contraceptives. A few days ago, Senate Republicans blocked the bill,[4] despite the fact that 84% of likely Republican primary voters support safe access to contraceptives.[5] Almost all House Republicans voted against this bill as well.[6] And most of them also voted ‘no’ on a same-sex marriage bill and a couple of other popular social issues.[7]

Even more reprehensible, last week Senate Republicans rejected a bill to assist veterans suffering from exposure to toxic chemicals while on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty-five Republican senators blocked the measure, even though they had voted in favor of it just one month earlier. Their about-face was in retaliation for being outmaneuvered by Schumer and Manchin in the CHIPS Act voting previously noted. “Getting even” with the Democrats apparently overrode their longstanding strong support for our troops. This may very well cost the GOP when America’s veterans go to the polls this fall.[8]

Meanwhile, as the Justice Department begins to zero in on Trump’s criminal culpability for the January 6th insurrection, a bright light will also shine on his Republican Congressional enablers. McConnell and his colleagues who have failed to stand up to Trump are, in fact, accomplices to Trump’s crimes. If Senate Republicans had voted with the Democrats to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial after he had instigated the attack on the Capitol, he would have been barred from running for president again under Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution.[9]

The House Select Committee’s hearings have made it clear to millions more Americans how Trump and his party conspired to overthrow the 2020 election. All the Republican Congresspeople who voted against certifying that election and supported Trump’s Big Lie should be held accountable in my view. But that will be up to their constituents in November. The voters may yet reject those who chose overthrowing our government rather than upholding the Constitution, which they had sworn to defend.[10]

Though the polls and history suggest this is the Republicans’ year, recent events have given the Democrats renewed hope for winning the mid-term elections. In addition to all the above, abortion rights, gun control and climate change provide further Democratic momentum. And I just bought gas for under $4/gal. So, inflation may cease to be the overriding issue it has been projected to be. Then Democrats may well declare the ultimate “Gotcha” on the night of November 8th. Wouldn’t that be something?!

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

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