- Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin remains opposed to dumping the filibuster.
- Some Democrats want the rule erased to overcome GOP opposition and enact sweeping reforms.
- Manchin’s support is vital if Democrats are to reform or remove the rule.
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Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said that he remains opposed to dumping the filibuster, a Senate rule that progressives want removed to overcome GOP opposition and enact sweeping reforms on gun control laws and voting rights.
The senator from West Virginia, a Republican-leaning state, has put a break on a push by some Democrats to use the party’s control of Congress to enact major reforms and sidestep GOP opposition and spoiling tactics.
“Pushing through legislation of this magnitude on a partisan basis may garner short-term benefits, but will inevitably only exacerbate the distrust that millions of Americans harbor against the US government,” Manchin said in a statement Friday.
In remarks to The New York Times in an article published Saturday, Manchin defended the filibuster, saying that it had been designed to encourage bipartisan consensus and erasing it could destroy the Senate.
He also signaled opposition to suspending the rule for certain bills, as some Democrats have suggested.
“You’re either committed or not,” he remarked of the rule.
Manchin’s remarks have special weight because Democrats need the backing of all 50 of their senators to get bills passed or rules reformed, with the chamber currently evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaker.
The filibuster has been used as a spoiling tactic by Republicans and Democrats to block bills in recent years.
To overcome a filibuster and pass bills, 60 Senate votes are needed, meaning that Democrats will need to secure at least 10 Republicans’ support to overcome likely GOP filibusters on issues including gun control reform and voting rights.
The case for tighter federal gun control laws was highlighted by mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado, in the past fortnight, say advocates.
Democrats say that a federal voting rights bill is needed to counteract a push by state Republican legislatures to restrict voting access. No GOP senators have signaled support for reforming gun laws or expanding voting rights amid deep partisan divides on the issues.
But Manchin did say to the Times that he was open to reforming the filibuster and changing the rule to require senators to actually voice their opposition to a bill and speak out in the chamber. In theory, it’s a change that would make it harder to use the filibuster as a spoiling tactic and has been backed by President Joe Biden.
Current rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish, and on any topic they choose. In 2013 Sen. Ted Cruz spoke for 21 hours to stop the Affordable Care Act. During the filibuster, he read ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ by Dr. Seuss.
Manchin said his main goal is to get Republicans and Democrats in the Senate talking again.
“America’s declining trust in the government and each other makes it harder to solve key problems. That trust will continue to diminish unless we, as members of Congress, transcend partisanship,” he remarked in Friday’s statement.