West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said pointedly Tuesday that ending the legislative filibuster won’t make the Senate work better – just as President Joe Biden flew to Georgia to demand changes in Senate rules to push through voting rights legislation.
‘We need some good rules changes to make the place work better. But getting rid of the filibuster doesn’t make it work better,’ Manchin told reporters in the Capitol Tuesday morning.
He has allowed he might be open to a formal rules change – based on two-thirds of those voting present to do so. He called that a case of ‘Democrats, Republicans changing the rules to make the place work better. Getting rid of the filibuster doesn’t make it work better,’ he underlined.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia once again poured cold water on the Democrats’ plan to change the filibuster if voting rights legislation remains stalled, saying getting rid of the filibuster won’t make the Senate ‘work better’
Manchin made his comments just as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has leveled the threat of pushing through a rules change on just such a party-line vote. But Schumer cannot do so without buy-in from all 50 members of his caucus, including Manchin.
Without Manchin, such an effort would fail. Manchin has also been negotiating with Republicans on voting rights legislation, but there have been no indications to date there is a coalition of 60 including Republicans who would brake with their own leadership to push through the kind of changes Democratic leaders are pushing for.
His own defense of the status quo comes as Biden prepares to turn up the heat on opponents of voting rights legislation. His remarks echo the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, where opponents of reform deployed the filibuster to major effect.
‘The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation. Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice?,’ Biden planned to say, according to excerpts released from the White House.
‘I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is where will the institution of United States Senate stand?,’ Biden was set to ask.
Manchin spoke hours before President Joe Biden (here with VP Kamala Harris arriving in Atlanta) was set to push for changes to the filibuster to move voting rights legislation
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to use Senate rules to bring up controversial legislation that might put some vulnerable Democrats in a bind if Democrats proceed with a move to try to change Senate filibuster rules
Manchin’s comments came after comments Monday suggesting he has not dropped his opposition to ditching the filibuster. He did so by implying the filibuster had always been part of the Senate, when it wasn’t used for the first decades of the Senate and filibuster rules have been changed on several occasions.
Democrats have been trying to win over the West Virginia senator as part of a push to change the rules to pass voting rights legislation.
But Manchin, whose opposition doomed Biden’s massive Build Back Better spending plans, signaled he remained opposed.
He told Congressional reporters that the filibuster was ‘the tradition of the Senate here in 232 years now … ‘
‘We need to be very cautious what we do.
‘I’m hoping that we can come to an agreement to fix things. Every American has the right to vote and should be protected.’
‘That’s what we’ve always had for 232 years. That’s what makes us different than any place else in the world.’
Adam Jentleson, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, noted in response to Manchin: ‘This is false. The filibuster as we know it did not exist in the early Senate. The Framers favored majority rule and created rules to allow senators to cut off debate when it became obstructionist. The Senate was majority-rule well into the latter half of the 20th century.’
Sen. Joe Manchin stands between President Joe Biden and voting rights legislation as the West Virginia senator again urged caution in shaking up Senate rules
Manchin spoke to congressional reporters on Monday, saying the Senate should be cautious in overhauling rules that had served it well in the past 232 years
Democrats’ efforts to push through legislation have been stalled by the filibuster and rules that require 60 senators to back most bills, enabling a Republican minority to block their push for voter protections.
They face a critical week as Chuck Schumer, their leader in the Senate, has set January 17 – Martin Luther King Day – as the deadline for passing the legislation.
Manchin and Krysten Sinema, who both represent more conservative states, have said they want to keep the filibuster for the way it promotes bipartisanship.
As a result, party leaders have spared no effort in trying to woo them.
Former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and even talk show host Oprah Winfrey have called Manchin as part of their campaign to persuade him to support reforms to the filibuster or a carveout on this one issue.
The push will take on added momentum on Tuesday when Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Atlanta to hit back at what they see as Republican efforts to restrict voting access.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden planned to push through voting rights legislation.
‘His plan is to sign voting rights legislation into law. That requires a majority of senators to support it … if there are changes to the Senate rules, which is something the President has expressed an openness to,’ she said.
Georgia is a battleground state, where Democrats won two Senate seats in January 2021.
Atlanta was also the home of Martin Luther King, and Psaki said it was a ‘place with profound civil rights history.’
President Biden will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday to deliver a speech on voting rights
White House Press Secretary said Biden would use his speech in Atlanta to advocate forcefully for ‘protecting the most bedrock American rights, the right to vote and have your voice counted in a free, fair and secure election’
She confirmed that the president would back changing Senate rules, which currently require 60 senators to back most legislation, enabling a Republican minority to block voting rights bills.
‘The president will forcefully advocate for protecting the most bedrock American rights, the right to vote and have your voice counted in a free, fair and secure election that is not tainted, tainted, tainted by partisan manipulation,’ she said.
Democrats face a critical week as Chuck Schumer, their leader in the Senate, has set January 17 – Martin Luther King Day – as the deadline for passing the legislation.
But Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, who represent more conservative states, have said they want to keep the filibuster for the way it promotes bipartisanship.
Republicans have said they support keeping the filibuster because it gives minority lawmakers a voice in policymaking.
Their Senate leader Mitch McConnell on Monday afternoon signaled his opposition, with a threat to force votes on a string of GOP-sponsored bills if Democrats make changes.
‘Since Sen. Schumer is hellbent on trying to break the Senate, Republicans will show how this reckless action would have immediate consequences,” he told The Wall Street Journal.
And during a floor speech, he said: ‘If Republicans refuse to join us in a bipartisan spirit, if they continue to hijack the rules of the Senate to turn this chamber into a deep freezer, we’re going to consider the appropriate steps necessary to restore the Senate so we can pass these proposals and send them to the president’s desk.’
Biden was once seen as a supporter of the status quo but has expressed frustration at the filibuster as his legislative agenda stalled. In October he said it was time to ‘fundamentally alter’ the filibuster for certain issues.
Hillary Clinton offered her support to changing Senate rules in order to pass voting rights legislation with a tweet on Monday. She has spoken in favor of abolishing filibuster in the past
He has received backing from a string of senior Democrats.
On Monday, former presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in with a call to change the rules.
Quoting the president who signed the Voting Rights Act, she tweeted: ‘”The right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless,” Lyndon B. Johnson said. “It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies.”
‘It’s time Senate Democrats adjust the rules to protect Americans’ right to vote.’
At other times, Clinton has gone further and suggested that it was time to ditch the filibuster altogether.
What asked if she would get rid of it during the Atlantic Festival, she said, ‘Absolutely,’ and pointed to the way the Republican Party refused to vote on Merrick Garland – Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court in 2016.
‘Keeping the filibuster now, when you’re dealing with a political party that does not respect the rule of law, does not even respect the process unless it works for them, you know, witness what they did to Merrick Garland when President Obama had every right to appoint a Supreme Court justice,’ she said.
Senate Republicans are threatening to force votes on a slew of bills designed to split the Democratic caucus and take over the floor agenda should Majority Leader Charles Schumer carry out his threat to push through a change in Senate filibuster rules for voting rights.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been leading a Republican filibuster against the bills, threatened to use Senate rules to call up a raft of legislation in response – including bills that might peel off a vote a or two from vulnerable Democrats.
‘Since Sen. Schumer is hellbent on trying to break the Senate, Republicans will show how this reckless action would have immediate consequences,’ McConnell vowed.
He reiterated his threat on the Senate floor Tuesday morning.
‘I want to make something very, very clear. Fifty Republican senators – the largest possible minority – have been sent here to represent the many millions of Americans whom leader Schumer wants so badly to leave behind,’ McConnell said. ‘So, if my colleague tries to break the Senate to silence those millions of Americans, we will make their voices heard in this chamber in ways that are more inconvenient for the majority and this White House than what anybody has seen in living memory.’
McConnell’s planned virtual takeover of the floor agenda would not result in new laws – Democrats could block them and President Biden could veto them anyway. But it could put pressure on Democrats while also tying up the floor with procedural votes.
On tap would be legislation including a bill on the Keystone XL pipeline, a project President Joe Biden blocked at the start of his term. An amendment to revive it drew support from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) early last year.
McConnell’s threat came on Monday in a comment to the Wall Street Journal. He has scheduled a press conference on Tuesday where he will continue to beat the drum.
‘We have a lot of bills, actually, that have bipartisan support that Democrats have expressed support for previously,’ said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the party’s Number Two leader.
The minority party has traditionally vowed to carry out harsh delaying tactics when the majority threatens to change the rules to its advantage – one reason changes to the Senate filibuster have been termed the ‘nuclear option’ over the years.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer says the chamber will vote on filibuster changes if the Senate doesn’t act by Monday on voting rights
The GOP votes could put pressure on senators like Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has opposed changes to the filibuster
One of the bills Republicans would try to bring up would seek to revive the Keystone XL pipeline
Republicans are able to try to bring up the legislation in the 50-50 Senate through provisions of Rule 14 – which allows a senator to place legislation directly on the Senate calendar.
It still would be subject to a filibuster, so Democrats could prevent the bills from becoming law. But the procedural move could force Democrats to cast votes out of step with the majority of their colleagues, turning up the heat on senators like Manchin, and targets including Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)
Schumer, in remarks to colleagues Monday evening, tried to call McConnell’s bluff.
He offered a ‘unanimous consent’ motion to bring up all the bills on McConnell’s wish list, plus the two Democratic voting rights bills, but McConnell objected.
President Joe Biden is making a push for voting rights legislation with a speech in Atlanta Monday, and is expected to call for changes to filibuster rules in the chamber where he served for more than three decades.
Schumer has said the Senate will vote on a change to the filibuster rules by MLK Day this coming Monday if the chamber doesn’t take action on voting rights. The legislative filibuster allows a minority to block debate on a measure unless then majority can muster 60 votes.
Other legislation on McConnell’s list would codify Trump Administration water policy rules, Yahoo News reported. Another would block American Rescue Plan funds for schools that aren’t conducting in-person learning. Still another would block settlement payments to illegal immigrants – following reports the Justice Department was planning payouts to parents who were separated from their children.
Other votes could target hot-button issues like abortion and a border wall.
Current rules require 60 votes to cut off debate on legislation, allowing a minority to block action by the majority.
They have been modified on occasion, including in 2013, when Democrats ended the requirement for administration and lower court nominees. Republicans took a similar action for Supreme Court nominees in 2017. Both those changes came on a simple majority vote.
The threshold for changing the requirement for ‘closure’ to cut off debate also has been changed, with a two-thirds majority of those present put in place in 1917 and a three-fifths majority of those ‘chosen and sworn’ in 1975.