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Joe Manchin Signals He's Open to Filibuster Reform, Offering Hope to Democrats

Newsweek logo Newsweek 6/16/2021 Katherine Fung
Joe Manchin wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Committee chairman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on Capitol Hill June 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. Manchin suggested he would be opening to reforming the filibuster on a private call this week. © Drew Angerer/Getty Committee chairman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on Capitol Hill June 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. Manchin suggested he would be opening to reforming the filibuster on a private call this week.

Sen. Joe Manchin is signaling he may be open to reforming the filibuster, offering hope to Democrats who are eager to push their legislative agenda through Congress without the 60 votes currently required by the Senate rule.

On Monday, Manchin joined a private Zoom call hosted by No Labels, an operation that combats partisan dysfunction and funnels donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, to discuss the filibuster, infrastructure negotiations and the failed efforts to create a January 6 commission.

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In remarks obtained by The Intercept, Manchin said he would consider lowering the threshold to beat the filibuster or forcing the minority to show up on the Senate floor in large enough numbers to maintain a filibutser.

"That's one of many good, good suggestions I've had," the senator said about lowering the cloture total from 60 to 55.

"I looked back...when it went from 67 votes to 60 votes, and also what was happening, what made them think that it needed to change. So I'm open to looking at it, I'm just not open to getting rid of the filibuster, that's all," he added.

Prior to these comments, Manchin has been a staunch opponent of eliminating the filibuster, a move most Democrats have supported in hopes of advancing legislation in the narrowly divided chamber.

While the senator has expressed frustration that Senate Republicans have refused to vote on certain bills, like the one that would create a commission on the January 6 Capitol riot, Manchin has maintained that gutting the filibuster would "destroy our government."

Earlier this month, Manchin explicitly stated in an op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail he "will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster."


Video: Sen. Manchin will not vote for big reform, repeats opposition to ending filibuster (NBC News)

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His remarks during the Monday zoom, however, suggests he may be open to making amendments to the filibuster so that Democrats would require fewer votes to passing legislation.

"Right now, 60 is where I planted my flag, but as long as they know that I'm going to protect this filibuster, we're looking at good solutions," he said on the call.

"I think, basically, it should be [that] 41 people have to force the issue versus the 60 that we need in the affirmative. So find 41 in the negative...I think one little change that could be made right now is basically anyone who wants to filibuster ought to be required to go to the floor and basically state your objection and why you're filibustering and also state what you think needs to change that'd fix it, so you would support it. To me, that's pretty constructive," Manchin added.

Democrats have struggled to pass a number of key pieces of legislation without a supermajority vote.

Their most recent efforts to pass the sweeping voting bill For the People Act (H.R. 1) have stalled due to the cloture, as well as a lack of support from Manchin, who has argued that the bill is too wide-ranging.

On Monday, the senator told participants of the No Labels call he's been clear with his colleagues on the changes he would like to see made on H.R. 1, which include preserving same-day registration and the ability to purge voter lists—objections the senator had not previously stated explicitly.

"So at least I'm saying I'm against it for this reason, and here's the things I think can make a piece of legislation better. I think we all should do that. We should be responsible for that," Manchin said.

Newsweek reached out to Manchin's office for comment but did not hear back before publication.

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