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Democrats, Joe Manchin Is Absolutely Not Going to Reform the Filibuster

Intelligencer logo Intelligencer 10/6/2021 Ed Kilgore
Joe Manchin is all for any solution to the debt-limit crisis that doesn’t mess with his dear friend, the filibuster. Intelligencer; Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images © Intelligencer; Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images Joe Manchin is all for any solution to the debt-limit crisis that doesn’t mess with his dear friend, the filibuster. Intelligencer; Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Amid all the agitation among Democrats over the filibuster, the chief instrument of Republican obstruction, there has been an undercurrent of hope. The idea was that some outrageous act of GOP disrespect, or an accumulation of multiple outrages, might flip Democratic defenders of the filibuster like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and produce 50 votes for reforming or even abolishing the dilatory tactic.

Well, I think we’ve just seen some pretty clear proof that Manchin, at least, is unflippable. After a meeting of Democratic senators in which some sort of filibuster carve-out to avert a debt default that could crash the U.S. economy in just 12 days was under discussion, Manchin dropped the same old hammer on the idea, as the Hill reports:

“I’ve been very, very clear where I stand on the filibuster. Nothing changes,” Manchin told a gaggle of reporters outside of his Senate office. 

Manchin’s comments come as the idea of a debt ceiling exemption from the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation, has gained steam within the Senate Democratic Caucus.

The West Virginian had earlier indicated that he supported use of budget reconciliation to lift the debt limit on a party-line vote, which of course has been the Republican position since July. Other Democrats have been insisting that Republicans provide enough votes to pass a debt-limit increase or suspension, or simply decline to filibuster such a measure. The only thing Manchin added to his prior statements today was another predictable plea to the leaders of both parties to get together and act like “adults” instead of engineering an “artificial crisis.”

I suppose it’s possible Manchin had gotten wind of an offer by Mitch McConnell to make the reconciliation route easier for Democrats via a short-term fixed-dollar increase in the debt limit (nestled, of course, in insults):

But it’s more likely he’s just confirming that not even a devastating financial crisis is important enough to justify messing with his good friend the filibuster, which, after all, has greatly enhanced his own power. No one should henceforth believe he’s going to betray the filibuster over trifles like voting rights. Sorry, Democrats.

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