Joe Manchin Seems to Rule out Filibuster 'Exception' Proposal to Pass HR 1 -- the 'Democrats Win Every Election Act'

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Various liberal interest groups and the Democrat Party are searching for an end-run of the legislative filibuster in the Senate to enable them to pass HR 1 — passed by the House on a strict party-line vote 220-210 — which would mandate states to follow various procedures and processes in conducting elections which included federal office contests.  I wrote a breakdown of the various aspects of HR 1 in this earlier story — “House Votes To Create US Politburo and One-Party Government.”

Because HR 1 has nothing to do with the budget or spending levels, it cannot pass in the Senate via “reconciliation.”  HR1 — which is called S1 in the Senate — must get past the legislative filibuster which requires 60 votes to close debate in order to proceed to a vote.  That means 10 GOP Senators must vote to end debate on S1 before it could be passed by the Senate on a party-line vote.

Consider for a moment the optics of that.  The Democrat Party — holding control of the thinnest margins in the House and Senate EVER at the same time — wants to ram through on a straight party-line vote in both Houses of Congress a piece of legislation the purpose of which is to mandate voting practices that will increase their chances to maintain their control of the federal government.

That is “Banana Republic” stuff in any dictionary you use.

Joe Manchin has said repeatedly that he does not favor ending the legislative filibuster, and that he will not vote to change the Senate Rules to end the practice.

But after repeatedly making reference to the need to have minority party input and participation on legislation as the foundation upon which he has stated his opposition to ending the filibuster, he began to change his tune a bit on the topic when it came to pork-barrel spending projects — the kind he has used to pump money into his home state of West Virginia in times of economic difficulty.  Rather than completely ruling out an end-run of the filibuster on that kind of legislation, he has suggested that he would be open to a process that might lead to a vote if circumstances were such that the GOP was simply refusing to participate in negotiations on spending proposals to the extent that such legislation was impossible to move.  From Politico:

Sen. Joe Manchin said Sunday he is open to altering the Senate filibuster to make it more “painful” for the minority party to wield, while reiterating his opposition to ending the procedural hurdle altogether.

“The filibuster should be painful, it really should be painful and we’ve made it more comfortable over the years,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Maybe it has to be more painful.”

“If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk,” Manchin said. “I’m willing to look at any way we can, but I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.”

That was from 10 days ago.

Since those comments, the effort to push S1 through the Senate has picked up steam, with the self-anointed Governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams, advocating for the Senate to carve out other procedural exceptions to the filibuster rule such as one for civil rights legislation such as S1.  From Reuters:

“Protection of democracy is so fundamental that it should be exempt from the filibuster rules,” Abrams, a former senior state legislator and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in Georgia who helped Democrats win two U.S. Senate runoff elections in her home state in January, told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

That was this past Sunday.

Has Abrams’s suggestion, or other alternatives to avoid the filibuster rule caused Manchin to change his stance?  Comments made by him on Wednesday seemed to signal that he has grown uncomfortable with his position given the continuing debate over the subject, and the various alternatives being put forth by a variety of actors as part of an effort to get S1 passed.  Specifically, he seemed to walk-back his earlier endorsement of the idea to make the filibuster “more painful” which had evolved into requiring a continuing “speaking filibuster” in order to prevent a vote to close debate and proceed to a vote.  His suggestion was endorsed by President Biden, and Democrat members of the Senate began to work through the process to craft such a reform proposal for a vote.  But Manchin said yesterday that his basic position is unchanged, and the various proposals being floated haven’t moved him.

“I’m still at 60,” he told CNN on Wednesday. “That’s where I’m at. I haven’t changed.”
Manchin also rejected calls by proponents of gutting filibuster rules to require 41 senators to be present to sustain a filibuster.
“No, I’m still at 60. OK?” he said.

When asked specifically about S1 and creating exceptions to the filibuster rule for voting rights legislation, Manchin remained unmoved.

But Manchin isn’t showing signs of backing off his view. He said he would oppose changing the filibuster rules to create carve-outs so certain bills can advance with the backing of a simple majority of senators.
“That’s a little bit like being pregnant — maybe,” he said of such an idea, an apparent reference to the saying “you can’t be half-pregnant.”
And asked if Republicans blocking S.1, the election overhaul bill, would be enough to force him to change his view, Manchin shook his head and walked onto an elevator.

What Manchin understands is that eliminating the filibuster means that he would no longer be the de facto Senate Majority Leader.  If Chuck Schumer needs only 50 votes to pass legislation — with VP Harris casting a tie-breaking vote — Manchin’s opposition to a particular piece of legislation could be rendered meaningless if Schumer was able to pick-off one GOP Senator to support the bill. That opens the door for a RINO to vote in favor of environmental legislation that Manchin might oppose on behalf of the energy sector in West Virginia, enabling the legislation to pass notwithstanding Manchin’s opposition.  As things stand now, without Manchin’s support, Schumer must find 10 GOP votes to get to 60 in order to end debate and proceed to a vote.

The same calculation exists for a few other Senate Democrats who would be forced into having to vote on legislation that would be unpopular in their states if passed such as Kirsten Sinema in Arizona and Jon Tester in Montana.

I do not expect Manchin will give up the brake he holds on the Democrat Party wish list for legislation — not until he decides whether he intends to run for re-election in 2022.