Forget what the senator from West by God, etc., told the common folk in his recent op-ed; Joe Manchin was singing a slightly different tune on a Zoom call this week with filibuster-loving fat cats.
The call was arranged by the (shitty, useless, Joe Lieberman-led, but I repeat myself) No Labels group, according to a transcript obtained by The Intercept (and brought to our attention by valued commenter Martin in a thread downstairs). A few excerpts below:
Manchin told the assembled donors that he needed help flipping a handful of Republicans from no to yes on the January 6 commission in order to strip the “far left” of their best argument against the filibuster. The filibuster is a critical priority for the donors on the call, as it bottles up progressive legislation that would hit their bottom lines…
Manchin told the donors he hoped to make another run at it [a bipartisan commission vote] to prove that comity is not lost. He noted that Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who missed the vote, would have voted for it had he been there, meaning only three more votes are needed. “What I’m asking for, I need to go back, I need to find three more Republican, good Republican senators that will vote for the commission. So at least we can tamp down where people say, ‘Well, Republicans won’t even do the simple lift, common sense of basically voting to do a commission that was truly bipartisan.’ It just really emboldens the far left saying, ‘I told you, how’s that bipartisan working for you now, Joe?’”
To find those mythical “good Republican senators,” Manchin hit up donors on the call who he said may be “working with [retiring Senator] Roy [Blunt] in his next life” to put in a good word for a Yes vote. That raises all sorts of ethical questions. But let’s not argue over who is bribing whom.
It sounds like Manchin really is feeling the heat from “the far left” or at least believes it’s to his advantage for big donors to think that. He also sounds sincere about the comity bullshit, though that could be nonsense decanted for this particular audience.
In any case, here’s an interesting exchange on filibuster reform:
Manchin’s openness for filibuster reform on the call is notable given it flew in the face of many attendees’ hopes. Asked about a proposal to lower the threshold to beat back a filibuster to 55 votes, he said that it was something he was considering, but then quickly referred back to his earlier idea of forcing the minority to show up on the Senate floor in large enough numbers to maintain a filibuster…
Manchin acknowledged that publicly he had drawn a line at 60, but said that he was open to other ideas. “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. “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.”
The highlighted part seems significant, at least to me. One of the most maddening things about the filibuster as currently practiced is that all the onus is on the majority. Right now, Republican refuseniks get to hide behind McConnell’s skirts when opposing popular legislation. It shouldn’t be that way.
Short of getting rid of the big donor-beloved relic, altering the filibuster so that the minority party has to show up and contend with a calendar controlled by the majority (we shouldn’t underestimate the power of that) could be a game changer. It might offer opportunities to wear the bastards down by making them publicly take unpopular stands on big issues, and it might even allow progress through attrition on smaller items. That’s worth doing, IMO.
Anyhoo, interesting stuff. Thanks Martin!