Senate

Manchin chides Democrats over filibuster, saying he can’t support ‘such a perilous course’

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) warned Democrats against trying to change the legislative filibuster and lamented the state of the Senate, hours before a months-long fight over Senate rules will come to a head. 

Manchin went through a laundry list of reasons explaining why he supports the 60-vote threshold for most major legislation and argued that the pitch from his Democratic colleagues about wanting to restore the Senate is “simply not true.” 

“For the last year, my Democratic colleagues have taken to the Senate floor, cable news airwaves, pages of newspapers across the country, and to argue that repealing the filibuster is restoring the vision the founding fathers intended for this deliberate body. My friends, that is simply not true. It’s not true,” Manchin said. 

Manchin added that his Democratic colleagues “would use the nuclear option to override a rule that we have used ourselves, but now seem to find unacceptable.” 

Roughly 20 Republicans, including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, were on the Senate floor for Manchin’s speech. 

Manchin’s support for the filibuster isn’t new, but it comes after Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed after a closed-door caucus meeting this week that he would try to change the rules to implement a talking filibuster for voting rights legislation, getting rid of the 60-vote hurdle for that issue. 

Manchin’s speech also overlapped with part of President Biden’s first press conference of the year, as the White House tried to set the tone heading into the president’s second year in office. 

Manchin touted his work on voting rights in West Virginia and reiterated that he supports the voting rights legislation that the Senate will vote on later Wednesday. But he added that “that’s not what we’re debating right now. I think we all know that,” and that the Democratic rules change proposal would mark a “fundamental change in the Senate rules that will forever alter the way this body functions.”

“We all talked about how many times rules have changed. We changed them. But we changed them with the rules. We didn’t break the rules to change the rules. But all of a sudden now we just can’t do it anymore. Just got to blow it up,” Manchin said. 

Manchin’s comments come as Republicans are poised to block Democrats’ voting bill later Wednesday. That bill combines the Freedom to Vote Act, which overhauls federal elections, with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which strengthens the 1965 Voting Rights Act. 

Republicans will use the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most bills to advance in the Senate, to block the legislation. 

After that happens, Schumer is expected to move to change the rules. That will fall short because Democrats need total unity from all of their members but Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are opposed to the proposal. 

Manchin floated that instead of trying to quickly end debate that the Senate should stay on the voting rights bill for weeks to try to force a debate. 

“We’re here. We could have voting rights legislation as the pending business for the Senate, today, next week, a month from now,” Manchin said. 

Democrats worked behind the scenes for months to try to get Manchin to support changing the Senate’s filibuster rule, and appeared at times to think they were making progress with getting him to shift his position. 

But Manchin, during his speech, reiterated that he hadn’t changed his mind. 

“We’ve wasted a year behind the scenes,” Manchin says. “Negotiations back and forth, talking through each other, around each other, but not to each other. Let’s have the debate.”

Manchin’s stance on the filibuster has infuriated progressives, including some of his own colleagues who have opened the door to supporting a primary challenge against him. Manchin is on the ballot again in 2024, in a state won easily by then-President Trump in 2020. 

“While some of the senators have changed their positions, I have not. …I do not and will not attack the contents of the character of anybody who has changed their position and I would hope you would give me the same opportunity and not attack mine,” he added. 

Manchin also lamented the state of the Senate, saying that “I don’t know what happened to the good old days, but I can’t tell you they aren’t here now.”

“Eliminating the filibuster would be the easy way out. It wasn’t meant to be easy,” he said. “I cannot support such a perilous course for this nation when elected leaders are sent to Washington to unite our country, not to divide our country.” 

Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump Filibuster Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Lewis John Thune Kyrsten Sinema Mitch McConnell voting rights

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