Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), arguably one of the most powerful Democrats in the evenly split Senate, told Axios that Democrats will need to try and seek GOP support for any future infrastructure and climate bill before they can get him on-board with it.
The West Virginia senator’s remarks, made during an interview with Axios, come after Democrats pushed President Joe Biden’s first major piece of legislation on party lines, through a complicated process known as reconciliation. A bill passed through reconciliation cannot be filibustered, and can pass with a simple majority in the Senate.
“I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them out completely before we start trying,” Manchin, the Senate Energy Committee chairman, told Axios. The West Virginia senator said that it was possible his approach could be wrong, but noted that he believes ten Republicans would be willing to vote on an infrastructure bill if Democrats were to “do it right.”
“I’m just saying, 50/50 gives you an absolute opportunity to make the place work,” he added.
Manchin, who represents a state that voted heavily for former President Donald Trump in 2020, joined all 49 other Senate Democrats over the weekend to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. The bill, which will require House approval following changes, received opposition from two Democrats when it passed in the House of Representatives for the first time, and no Republican support in either chamber of the legislature.
Congressman Jared Golden (D-ME), who voted against the original bill in the House, told The Hill: “I think that we also have to accept the fact that we are going to have to work with the Republican Party and that is the mandate that was delivered by voters across 50 states. And there’s only so many times you can do budget reconciliation.”
The House is expected to pass it again this week, before benefits expire in mid-March.
Although the Senate managed to pass the stimulus bill through the reconciliation process, the tool cannot be used often and also can’t include all of Democrats’ policy objectives. (For example, Democrats were forced to axe a federal minimum wage hike after the Senate parliamentarian advised that it was not allowed per the Senate rules.) In recent months, progressive Democrats have been advocating to abolish the filibuster, a process that stands in the way of many of the other policy goals Democrats want to achieve.
But Manchin has repeatedly said he’s unwilling to scrap the filibuster, and recently told a reporter who asked: “Never…Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about never?”
During the Axios interview, Manchin said that he’d be open to reforming the filibuster to make it more similar to how it operated in the past. These reforms, he suggested, would make the filibuster more time-consuming to use. “Make sure there’s a little bit of pain. Don’t just say we’re not going to vote,” said the West Virginia senator.
“Some of the rules could be changed a little bit, but not to the point where it’s just a simple majority rules,” added Manchin.