Manchin says he doesn’t support DC statehood, election reform bills

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on Friday that he does not support a House-passed D.C. statehood bill or a sweeping bill to overhaul federal elections.

Manchin’s comments, made during a radio interview with West Virginia MetroNews’s Hoppy Kercheval, underscore how some of Democrats’ biggest priorities face headaches even if they got rid of the 60-vote legislative filibuster — something they don’t currently have the support to do.

Manchin, asked about a bill to grant D.C. statehood, said the idea had been studied by previous Justice Departments.

“They all came to the same conclusion: If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment … and let the people of America vote,” Manchin said.

Pressed if he would oppose a stand-alone bill, Manchin added “Yes, I would.”

“I would tell all my friends … if you go down that path because you want to be politically popular … you know it’s going to go to the Supreme Court,” Manchin said. “So why not do it the right way?”

The House passed legislation earlier this month to make D.C the country’s 51st state, the second time the House has passed the bill in two years. But even before Manchin said Friday that he would vote against it, it faced big roadblocks in the Senate. 

To pass the Senate it would currently need to get 60 votes, including support of 10 Republicans. But, in a blow to progressives, even if Democrats were able to get rid of the filibuster — something they don’t currently have the support for — the D.C. statehood bill does not have the backing of the 50 Democrats it would need to pass.

In addition to Manchin, Sens. Angus King (I-Maine), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) have not signed on as co-sponsors.

A spokesman for Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who is leading the D.C. statehood effort in the Senate, responded on Friday to Manchin after the West Virginia senator cited the 23rd Amendment, which gives D.C. residents Electoral College votes, as a complication for D.C. statehood.

“The Constitution — including the 23rd Amendment — does nothing to prohibit the granting of statehood to the District of Columbia, nor does it establish a minimum state size or the location of the federal district,” the spokesman said.

Manchin, during Friday’s radio interview, also said that he would vote against a sweeping election overhaul bill known as the For the People Act if it was brought to the floor in its current form. The bill is considered a top priority for Democrats and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has pledged to give it a vote.

“It’s a far reaching 800-page bill that I do not support in its totality,” Manchin said. “As it exists today I would not be able to support that bill and I would vote ‘no.’ I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Manchin instead signaled that he thought Congress should take up legislation to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act and noted that he was talking with Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) about voting and election legislation and that they were moving “in a very progressive way.”

“The vote should be accessible, it should be secure and it should be fair,” Manchin said.

Manchin, one of the caucus’s most conservative members, is a key vote in Democrats’ pledge to enact a “bold” agenda as they control both the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade.

He’s already flexed his political muscle this year. He helped sink Neera Tanden’s nomination to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, held Biden’s coronavirus proposal in limbo for hours as he negotiated changes to the unemployment language and was one of several Democrats who opposed a $15 per hour minimum wage.

He’s also signaling that he wants to break up Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal into smaller pieces, even as a growing number of Democrats indicate that they are ready to pass it as one bill and without GOP support.

Asked on Friday if the $2.3 trillion bill was too big, Manchin responded: “In one chunk? Absolutely.”

“I think we should look at what we call conventional infrastructure,” he said.

Updated at 6:50 p.m.

Tags Angus King Charles Schumer D.C. statehood For the People Act Jeanne Shaheen Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema legislative filibuster Mark Kelly Neera Tanden Tom Carper

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