We previously reported on how Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) took to the floor of the U.S. Senate earlier today, surprising colleagues on both sides of the aisle in an unexpected speech in which she reaffirmed in no uncertain terms that she still supported preserving the filibuster.
Sinema’s remarks came two days after President Joe Biden told a Georgia crowd that anyone who disagreed with him on changing the Senate rules regarding the filibuster and/or on federalizing elections was no better than prominent Democrat racists of the past like George Wallace, Bull Connor, and Jefferson Davis, and just minutes before a private meeting of Senate Democrats and Biden on that very issue.
Obviously, Biden’s racially-charged speech from two days ago where he smeared his opposition had the unintended effect of hardening Sinema’s position on the issue of the filibuster.
That also appears to be the case for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) who, like Sinema, was part of the meeting earlier today but who also was not persuaded by Biden’s arguments – not the ones he made today and certainly not the ones he made in Georgia.
A statement Manchin released after the powwow made that crystal clear. Here’s the short version:
NEW statement by @Sen_JoeManchin "I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster."
— Erik Wasson (@elwasson) January 13, 2022
In the longer version, Manchin twisted the knife a little bit harder, invoking the words of the late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd (who held various leadership positions throughout his time in the Senate before his 2010 death) as part of the inspiration behind his position:
After Biden meeting, Manchin issues lengthy statement: “I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” pic.twitter.com/BjDL38m6W1
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 13, 2022
According to a Politico report, Manchin and Biden both discussed Byrd today during the meeting, a name often used by both Manchin and Biden when discussing the filibuster. Manchin questioned Biden on whether or not Byrd ever broke the Senate’s rules in order to change them:
After hearing his Senate predecessor’s name invoked repeatedly over the past few months, Joe Manchin lobbed a pointed question at Joe Biden behind closed doors on Thursday: Did the late Robert Byrd ever break Senate rules to change them?
The president had a simple answer for Manchin: “We are in different times now,” according to multiple people with knowledge of the meeting.
Biden talked about Byrd — with whom he served in the Senate — at some length during his meeting with the 50-member Democratic caucus, contending that the late West Virginian believed Senate rules aren’t static and need to evolve. Later in the discussion, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) recounted that Byrd had maneuvered several times to change smaller-scale Senate rules by a simple majority vote — the same sort of move that Merkley and other progressives have sold nearly all members of their party on doing.
“Joe asked a question about Senate rules change. And Joe [Biden] talked about his experience. He’d been here 36 years. It’s changed a lot. The point he made is the Senate rules are not sacrosanct,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said after the visit. “President Biden, speaking as a senator who saw rules changes a lot, talked about the fact that rules change because times change.”
I’ve seen a lot of so-called “reporters” and “experts” try to debunk Manchin’s claims about Byrd’s position on the filibuster. But as far as Manchin is concerned, what matters most is what Byrd said about the filibuster before his death. And Manchin’s position, like Sinema’s, virtually assures that Biden is getting nowhere on his desire to put control of elections in the federal government’s hands.
Doesn’t mean the White House is going to stop trying, but what it likely does mean is that Biden is probably done hitting the gas pedal on “woke” rhetoric. Obviously, that backfired on him in a big way this week, so now it’s on to whatever the next plan is.
As always, stay tuned.