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Manchin Signals Unwillingness Toward Backing Biden’s Calls for Filibuster Reform

Manchin suggested he’d only back changes to the filibuster if a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate agreed to them.

Sen. Joe Manchin speaks to reporters outside of his office on Capitol Hill on January 4, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) has issued his conditions for backing reforms to the filibuster that are so strict as to make such changes to the controversial Senate rule unlikely to occur.

On Tuesday, shortly before President Joe Biden delivered a speech in Atlanta, Georgia, on voting rights and the need to reform the filibuster rule, Manchin said he would not back any changes that failed to garner bipartisan support.

“We need some good rule changes to make the place work better, but getting rid of the filibuster doesn’t make it work better,” Manchin said to CBS News Congressional Correspondent Scott MacFarlane.

Manchin also stated that a supermajority should be required in any vote to change the filibuster — a requirement that would essentially doom any chances at reforming the rule.

Rules should only change “with two-thirds of the people that are present [in the Senate],” Manchin said. “So it’s Democrats and Republicans changing the rules to make the place work better.”

Any changes to the filibuster rule currently require the support of at least 50 senators.

Democrats are hoping to pass legislation protecting the right to vote throughout the U.S., given how Republicans have blocked voting rights bills four times in the past year.

Biden has expressed support for such changes, including eliminating the filibuster itself if it remains an impediment to protecting voters’ rights and access to the ballot.

Speaking in Atlanta, Biden said that “the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills.”

Lawmakers should be allowed to “debate” on voting rights bills, the president said, then “vote, let the majority prevail.”

“And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this,” Biden added.

Biden also voiced support for the return of a “talking filibuster,” which requires senators to stand and speak nonstop in order to block legislation. Currently, filibuster votes allow 40 votes to block all pieces of legislation without any further action.

Biden noted that the talking filibuster was the norm when he started in the Senate in the early 1970s. “But that doesn’t happen today. Senators no longer even have to speak one word,” Biden noted in his speech. “The filibuster is not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart. The filibuster has been weaponized and abused.”

Manchin’s goals of bipartisanship have been criticized by other Democrats, who note that protecting the rights of voters shouldn’t require bipartisanship, especially if one side is opposed.

“The 15th Amendment was not a bipartisan vote,” observed Rep. James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) this past weekend. “It was a single-party vote that gave Black people the right to vote.”

Manchin has been involved in negotiations over possible changes to the filibuster with other moderate Democrats in the Senate. So far, those negotiations have been difficult, sources have said, due in large part to the West Virginia senator’s changing attitudes from one day to the next.

“You think you’re just about there. You think you’ve got an agreement on most of the things and it’s settling in. And then you come back the next morning and you’re starting from scratch,” one insider involved in the negotiations told Axios.

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