Joe Manchin made clear that his party’s push to isolate him and fellow centrist Kyrsten Sinema won’t force his hand on rules changes, once again rejecting Democrats' proposed reforms to the Senate’s filibuster rules.
The West Virginia Democrat actually seems to welcome the isolation. He told reporters ahead of a Democratic Caucus meeting he would not go along with instituting a talking filibuster, which could be used to evade the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, nor would he entertain a rules change by a simple majority.
Asked about his party's priorities, Manchin said people are most worried about inflation and coronavirus right now. He added that he’d welcome a primary challenge over his filibuster position if he runs again for reelection: "I've been primaried my entire life. That would not be anything new for me.”
“The majority of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus have changed their minds. I respect that. They have a right to change their minds. I haven’t. I hope they respect that too. I’ve never changed my mind on the filibuster,” Manchin said.
Though all 50 Senate Democrats support the voting and elections bill before the Senate, the Democratic caucus is pressing forward with laying blame on Manchin and Sinema (D-Ariz.) for the party's failure to advance sweeping elections reform, thanks to their resistance to weakening the filibuster. The move carries considerable risk, given that Sinema and Manchin will be essential to any further success the party can muster this year — particularly on any resuscitation of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.
Manchin said he doesn’t “take anything personally” as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer presses forward with a vote on weakening the filibuster. Schumer confirmed to reporters after the meeting that he would propose a talking filibuster only covering the package of bills currently in front of the Senate and dismissed Manchin and Sinema’s positions as out of step with the rest of the caucus.
“The vast majority of our caucus strongly disagree with Sens. Manchin and Sinema on rules changes. The overwhelming majority of our caucus knows that if you’re going to try to rely on Republican votes, you will get zero progress on voting rights,” Schumer said.
Schumer also would not say if he would support Manchin and Sinema in future Democratic primaries: “I'm not getting into the politics. This is a substantive, serious issue.” Sinema in particular could face a tough intra-party challenge in 2024.
The Senate Democratic caucus huddled on Tuesday evening to discuss the coming confrontation over changing chamber rules to help shore up the Voting Rights Act and enact federal election standards. During the meeting, Manchin “expressed disagreement” with the justification his party is using to change Senate rules, according to one attendee.
Under the talking filibuster proposed by Schumer, the voting and elections package would only require a simple majority to advance toward final passage, preceded by a lengthy debate. No further bills would get the same treatment; the Senate took up the election reform bill Tuesday and is expected to begin the rules debate on Wednesday.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who has been speaking to Manchin on rules changes, said Democrats have tried to come up with a proposal that's consistent with his and Sinema's positions and that they aren't worried the vote will alienate the two centrists.
"I was not a negotiator of the infrastructure bill — I was so happy they were, and I praised them for it, and I voted for it, and it's going to be great," Kaine said. "This voting bill is as important or more to many of us than the infrastructure bill. The time is nigh for a decision."
Last year, Manchin said he was open to the talking filibuster. Now he is 100% against it. And he's going to get away with blocking it, because the alternative is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and everyone knows it. Both Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats continue to give him all of the power, and until that situation changes, nothing's going to pass.