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West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) said Sunday that while he is opposed to eliminating the filibuster altogether, he is open to a change in filibuster rules to make it more “painful” for the minority party to block legislation.
Many progressive Democrats have urged the Democratic caucus in the Senate to eliminate the filibuster for legislation in order to make it easier for Democratic presidents like Joe Biden to push their agenda through Congress. Since Democrats currently control only 50 seats in the Senate, they need each and every Democrat in the Senate’s approval, plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Problematically for the Democrats, both Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) have publicly voiced opposition to the plan, meaning that it is likely dead in the water until at least after the 2022 midterm elections.
That does not mean, however, that Manchin is opposed to reform of the filibuster. Manchin discussed the idea during two television appearances Sunday. On “Fox News Sunday,” Manchin said that it had become too “comfortable” for Republicans to use the filibuster and said, “The filibuster should be painful. It really should be painful. We’ve made it more comfortable over the years, not intentionally — maybe just it evolved into that. Maybe it has to be more painful. Maybe you have to stand there. There’s things we can talk about.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Manchin elaborated further, “If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk. I’m willing to look at any way we can, but I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.”
Like Sinema, Manchin reiterated his stance that he is not open to changing his mind on eliminating the filibuster entirely.
“I’d make it harder to get rid of the filibuster. I’m supporting the filibuster, I’m going to continue to support the filibuster. I think it defines who we are as a Senate. I’ll make it harder to get rid of it, but it should be painful if you want to use it,” Manchin said.
Although the filibuster has been more commonly used in the last two decades than it was in previous times, the Senate generally no longer usually requires senators who want to filibuster to actually stand in the chamber and continue a speech on the floor in order to hold up passage of a bill. If Manchin has his way, that might change, and members of the Senate minority who want to hold up passage of a bill might have to return to the practice of holding the floor for hours at a time either debating the merits of the bill, reading the phone book into the record, or similar tactics.
The threat of a Republican filibuster is currently the only thing holding up a number of Democratic priorities in Congress, including a raise in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.