Moderate Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin told reporters Tuesday that getting behind a reform of the Senate filibuster to pass Democratic-backed election overhaul bills would be “very difficult,” indicating that he opposes the Democrats’ latest move to ram the bills through the upper chamber.
Speaking to reporters outside the Congressional offices in the Capitol, Manchin was asked by Politico congressional reporter Burgess Everett whether he opposes changing Senate rules or invoking the “nuclear option” to remove the legislative filibuster.
“[I’ve] always been for rules [changes] being done the way we’ve always done them, two-thirds of members voting, and any way you can do a rules change to where everyone is involved, and basically that’s a rule that usually will stay, that’s what we should be pursuing. [We’re] still having ongoing conversations as far as voting because I think the bedrock of democracy is making sure that you’re able to cast a vote. If you’re legal, of age, and a United States citizen, you should be able to cast a vote, and it should be counted accurately. So we’re talking about those things there,” Manchin said.
Asked by another reporter to confirm that he was open to the idea of using the nuclear option to reform the filibuster in order to pass the Democrats’ voting rights legislation by simple majority, Manchin was noncommittal, and indicated that it would be difficult for him to get on board. “[Being] open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option, it’s very, very difficult. It’s a heavy lift,” Manchin said.
“Anytime there’s a carveout, you eat the whole turkey,” Manchin joked. “There’s nothing left, because it comes back and forth. So you want things that’ll be sustainable, that’s what you’re looking for. So that common sense, commonality … I just believe that the bedrock of democracy is voting, and we have to do what we can in order to preserve that. But let’s just see. Conversations are still ongoing, I’ve been talking to everybody, we’ve been having good conversations … since we left about two weeks ago.”
Pressed by another reporter, Manchin reiterated his concerns. “The need for us to protect democracy as we know it, and the Senate, as it has operated for 232 years, are extremely, extremely high bars that we must be careful if we’re willing to cross those. So, I’m talking. I’m not agreeing to any of this. … I want to talk and see all the options we have open,” he said.
“We want to talk to everybody. I want to engage everybody, I’m just not doing it from one side,” Manchin said, adding that the Democrats’s abolition of the judicial filibuster in 2013 blew back on them in 2017 with the appointments of 234 federal judges under President Donald Trump, including 3 Supreme Court justices.
Manchin was previously uncommitted to amending the filibuster to pass the Democrats’ election overhaul bills. Speaking with Bret Baier on “Fox News Sunday” in December, Manchin told him that he “made no commitments or promises” on amending the filibuster.
Manchin’s opposition also seems to throw a wrench in the plans of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who promised on Monday that he would attempt to change the Senate rules in order to ram the bills through. “If Republicans continue to block our efforts, The Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: Free and fair elections,” Schumer tweeted Monday.