- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Sen. Joe Manchin III on Tuesday said it would be a “heavy lift” for Democrats to gut the Senate‘s 60-vote filibuster threshold to ram through a rewrite of the nation’s voting laws.

The West Virginia Democrat said that invoking the so-called nuclear option to blow up the filibuster rules could backfire on the party in the future.

“It’s very, very difficult,” said Mr. Manchin. “And the reason I say it’s a heavy lift is that once you change a rule or you have a carve-out, I’ve always said this, ‘Anytime there’s a carve-out, you eat the whole turkey.’ There’s nothing because it comes back.”

Mr. Manchin added that any change to the Senate‘s rules should have buy-in from Republicans. GOP support, according to Mr. Manchin, would ensure stability within Congress over the long term.

“I don’t intend to do anything that divides our country anymore,” he said. “So whatever I can do, to unite and bring people together. And that means you have to work hard as you work across the aisle to bring people together.”

Democrats are considering using a parliamentary procedure in which a majority vote overrides the chamber’s long-standing rules and traditions. It would require support from all 50 Senate Democrats since no Republicans back the move.

Democrats have been pushing an ambitious overhaul of the country’s voting laws since President Biden took office a year ago. Their bill would expand vote-by-mail, provide for the taxpayer funding of electoral campaigns, undermine state voter ID laws and impose new restrictions on state redistricting.

The bill, which passed the House last year, has failed in the Senate repeatedly because of a GOP filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has argued that if Republicans do not help break a filibuster on the bill, then the rule should be scrapped.

“I’ll meet with our entire caucus for the first time this year to talk about how we’re going to move forward,” said Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat. “The Senate must advance legislation to protect our democracy and safeguard the right to vote.”

Democrats are weighing several proposals for bypassing or jettisoning the filibuster outright to pass the voting measure.

Some lawmakers are pushing for a one-time filibuster exemption to pass the election legislation. Others want a more radical change in how the Senate operates.

Mr. Manchin’s comments seem to rule out creating a one-time carveout.

There is also talk of changing the filibuster rule to require 41 “no” votes for continuing debate rather than 60 “yes” votes for ending debate.

Some lawmakers have further floated a requirement that senators mount an old-fashioned “talking filibuster,” which would require lawmakers to speak continuously on the floor in objection to a bill. Senators currently are allowed to merely object to ending debate, forcing leaders to round up the votes necessary to overcome the 60-vote threshold.

GOP lawmakers say any weakening of the filibuster will launch a new era of partisan warfare.

“Entire generations of statesmen would have seen … these unhinged proposals as armageddon for our institutions,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “Lashing out at our democracy … and at the Senate itself is not going to solve anything.”

Republicans also warn the move will likely backfire on Democrats. They point to a 2013 decision by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, to remove the filibuster threshold for judicial and executive nominees.

That change allowed President Trump to nominate and confirm three Supreme Court justices in near party-line votes, shifting the makeup of the nation’s highest court to the right.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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