Sen. Joe Manchin III on Wednesday rebuked fellow Democrats for lying about the filibuster in their attempt to blow it up and force through President Biden’s agenda.
Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, took to the Senate floor as the chamber was poised to hand Mr. Biden defeats on the White House’s two partisan voting bills and its push to eviscerate the chamber’s longstanding filibuster rules.
He accused his Democratic colleagues of purposefully trying to smear the filibuster in hopes of securing support to use the so-called “nuclear option” on it and then ram through partisan bills in party-line votes.
“For the last year, my Democratic colleagues have taken to the Senate floor … to argue that repealing the filibuster is restoring the vision the Founding Fathers intended for this deliberative body. My friends, that is simply not true,” said Mr. Manchin. “The United States Senate has never in 233 years been able to end debate on legislation with a simple majority vote.”
Once both Mr. Biden’s push to overhaul the nation’s voting laws and rewrite the filibuster fail, Democrats are expected to turn to a less ambitious agenda.
Topping the list will be passing either a yearlong budget or a short-gap funding bill to keep the government afloat past Feb. 18. Lawmakers from both parties said a bipartisan budget deal might be possible.
SEE ALSO: Schumer admits filibuster gambit poised for defeat
Mr. Manchin said that he too was fed up with gridlock in Washington but could not support gutting the Senate’s filibuster rules, which require 60 votes for most bills to survive in the 100-member chamber.
He said the consequences of blowing up the filibuster would be dire.
“Right now, we’re debating a fundamental change in the Senate rules that will forever alter the way this body functions,” he said.
“Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel on the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart and you don’t have to look very far to see how we’re tearing ourselves apart.”
Mr. Manchin made the remarks as Senate Republicans prepared to use the filibuster to defeat two of Mr. Biden’s election bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The bills would rewrite the nation’s elections laws to overrule a slew of ballot integrity measures enacted by GOP-led states since 2020.
Democrats have argued that if the measures cannot overcome a GOP filibuster within the evenly split Senate, then the 60-vote threshold should be scrapped.
SEE ALSO: Liberal groups pledge to punish Sinema in next reelection bid for refusing to gut filibuster
“If the Senate cannot protect the right to vote, protect the cornerstone of our democracy under the existing rules, then the Senate rules must be reformed,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
Mr. Manchin disagreed. While saying he supported both voting bills, Mr. Manchin said that Democrats were too eager to pass them wholesale, without being open to working with Republicans on some form of compromise.
“We don’t have to change the rules to make our case to the American people about voting rights,” he said.
Mr. Manchin criticized Democratic leaders for accepting defeat on the elections bill and trying to force a vote on changing the filibuster.
According to Mr. Manchin, leadership should let the Senate debate the election measures until a more natural resolution was reached.
“We could have kept voting rights legislation as the pending business for the senate. Today, next week, a month from now,” he said. “This is important. Let’s work it out. Let’s stay here and go at it. I think you all are here. Everybody is here.”
After the White House’s bills are defeated, Mr. Schumer plans to bring up a proposal to replace the filibuster vote with an old-fashioned “talking filibuster,” requiring a senator to hold the floor with a nonstop speech to block legislation from advancing.
Currently, lawmakers are allowed to merely object to ending debate, forcing leaders to round up the 60 votes to keep the legislation alive. Under Mr. Schumer’s proposal, senators would have to speak continuously in objection to a piece of legislation. Once the speechmaking is exhausted, the legislation would be eligible to pass with a simple majority vote.
“We know it’s an uphill fight, but whenever this chamber confronts a question this important, one so vital to our country, you don’t slide it off the table and say never mind,” said Mr. Schumer.
Mr. Manchin argued that such thinking fails to rise above partisan politics and is a threat not only to the Senate but the country as well.
“Eliminating the filibuster would be the easy way out. It wasn’t meant to be easy,” he said. “I cannot support such a perilous course for this nation when elected leaders are sent to Washington to unite our country, not to divide our country.”