Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) outlined changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules that he would support, but remained steadfast in his opposition to getting rid of the filibuster entirely in comments to congressional reporters on Tuesday.
Manchin’s comments come as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) reiterated his commitment to hold another vote as early as Wednesday on federal voting rights legislation supported by all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus before pushing for filibuster changes if Republicans again block consideration of the legislation.
With nearly all Republicans opposed to both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, Democrats would need to change the filibuster rules to enact both bills. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Manchin remain the only two Democratic senators openly opposed to eliminating the filibuster in order to pass voting rights legislation that they support.
Manchin told PBS NewsHour reporter Lisa DesJardins on Tuesday that he supports a raft of rules changes to make the Senate “work better.” These include getting rid of the filibuster to begin debate on legislation, also known as the motion to proceed, changing the threshold to end a filibuster from 60 votes to three-fifths present and requiring a talking filibuster with senators limited to two speeches each.
“I’m not for breaking the filibuster, but I am for making the place work better by changing the rules,” Manchin said.
These changes would not necessarily allow for legislation like the voter rights bills currently blocked by GOP filibusters to pass, but filibuster reform and voting rights advocates are still encouraged by Manchin’s willingness to publicly back some kind of change.
“It is very encouraging to hear Sen. Manchin state so clearly that the filibuster is being abused and that the rules need to be updated and reformed,” Eli Zupnick, communications director for the filibuster reform coalition Fix Our Senate, said in an email. “Now we’re hopeful that he’ll keep working with Leader Schumer and others to get this done in a way that ends Sen. McConnell’s obstruction and allows popular legislation to get a full debate and then an up-or-down vote.”
Manchin remains in negotiations on potential filibuster reforms with Sens. Angus King (Maine), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Tim Kaine (Va.). The changes under discussion have included a filibuster carve-out for voting rights bills and some form of a “talking” filibuster. Based on comments by Manchin and Tester, the “talking filibuster” option appears to be the more favored change.
“Anytime there’s a carve-out, you eat the whole turkey,” Manchin said when asked about his opinion of a filibuster carve-out for voting rights.
Tester told reporters on Monday that he is “not crazy” about a carve-out and instead favors the return of some form of “talking filibuster.”
Still, Senate Democrats need Manchin’s and Sinema’s support to change the rules without Republican support, something Manchin said he still does not back at the moment.
Schumer promises that he will push for rules changes before the Jan. 17 Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday and after holding a test vote on voting rights legislation this week. Whether or not Manchin and Sinema, or other Democrats, vote for or against filibuster rules changes may ultimately be resolved in a vote on the floor of the Senate.