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Mitch McConnell,Rick Scott,Roy Blunt
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., with Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., left, speaks to reporters during a news conference following the Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, on June 7, 2022.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP file

Mitch McConnell ratchets up effort to stop the Biden agenda

After a rare stretch of limited bipartisan deals, the Republican Minority Leader is back to his old ways.


Republicans are celebrating victory after victory in the Supreme Court he built, but Senate Min. Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be getting nervous about how things are going back in the Senate. 

On Thursday, the GOP leader issued a scorched-earth threat to kill bipartisan talks on a bill that would boost domestic manufacturing and research unless Democrats dropped a potential reconciliation bill. It comes amid rising optimism among Democrats that Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin can close to a deal on a party-line bill on energy, prescription drugs, taxes, and possibly a boost to the Affordable Care Act. 

It’s the kind of raw obstructionism that McConnell was famous for in the Obama era, but has relied on less under President Biden in favor of subtler means of influencing bills.

It's a risky move, too. The bipartisan bill made it this far in a polarized Senate (an earlier version passed with 68 votes) because both sides framed it as an urgent national security priority that would allow the U.S. to better compete with China. McConnell is threatening a bill he and his own party have deemed critically important over an unrelated bill headlined by a popular plan to lower drug prices.

A spokesman for Schumer swiftly accused McConnell of “holding American jobs in key U.S. industries hostage to help China and protect his friends in big pharma allowing them to keep screwing over Americans with outrageously high Rx prices.”

The big question is how Manchin reacts (and maybe Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.)

As we've noted before, McConnell has repeatedly tried to lure the two away from Democratic bills with bipartisan carrots. He's encouraged talks on infrastructure, electoral reforms, and guns, providing them a narrative to counter Democrats pressuring them to blow up the filibuster or pass a multi-trillion dollar bill along party lines. This is the first time he’s used the stick instead. 

It’s not clear how Manchin will respond, though so far he’s not taken well to threats. House Democrats tried to withhold support for the infrastructure bill Manchin supported until he supported a major reconciliation bill. He called their bluff and they ended up caving. Going after another Manchin-backed bill over a separate dispute could potentially anger him too. He also has his own leverage in that he could take elements of the China bill, like funding for semiconductors, and stash them in the bill he’s working on with Schumer.

Whatever’s going on with reconciliation -- and a deal is far from certain -- it’s a play McConnell doesn’t make unless his back is against the wall.