Will Joe Manchin Flip-Flop on the Filibuster?

Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) speaks during an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 16, 2020.
Only if the self-proclaimed pro-life Democrat wants to provide unlimited taxpayer-funding for elective abortions.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE L ast November, as a number of Democratic presidential candidates made the case for repealing the Senate filibuster, West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin told National Review that he would “never” repeal the upper-chamber’s 60-vote threshold for legislation.

“I’ve always been there. That’s been my position from Day One,” Manchin said.

Were there any circumstances where Manchin could see himself voting to eliminate the 60-vote requirement for legislation? “Never,” Manchin replied. “Nope, I’m sitting in Bob Byrd’s seat. Just read his history.”

Manchin wasn’t alone. Montana Democrat Jon Tester similarly said there weren’t any circumstances under which he would repeal the Senate’s 60-vote requirement for legislation.

“They will not get my vote” to eliminate the Senate’s 60-vote requirement, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema told Politico at the time. “In fact, whether I’m in the majority or the minority I would always vote to reinstate the protections for the minority. . . . It is the right thing for the country.”

But The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that Manchin may now be singing a different tune:

“I just heard they started talking and I’m interested in listening to anything because the place isn’t working. I just heard about it this morning,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a prominent moderate, said Thursday of the uptick in discussion about filibuster reform should Democrats win back the majority.

[…]

Manchin’s new outlook on filibuster reform contrasts with comments he made just a year ago on the topic.

“I would hope that they would not ever, ever consider doing away with the filibuster, which is basically the whole premise of the Senate,” he told The Hill in July 2019.

The question of how many Senate Democrats would keep the filibuster is increasingly pertinent as polling suggests Democrats are increasingly likely to win unified control of Congress and the White House in November. In that event, the filibuster would be the only tool stopping a simple majority of congressional Democrats from passing some extreme pieces of legislation on a variety of issues, including proposals that Manchin claims to oppose.

If Manchin votes to eliminate the filibuster, for example, the self-proclaimed pro-life Democrat would be paving the way for congressional Democrats to pass a federal law providing unlimited taxpayer-funding of elective abortions.

When the Democratic Party platform was changed in 2016 to explicitly call for repeal of the Hyde amendment, a longstanding measure that prohibits Medicaid funding of elective abortions, Manchin called that plank of the party platform “crazy.”

“It’s something that I know most of the Democrats in West Virginia and most West Virginians would not agree with. I don’t either,” he said.

Is Manchin really ready to flip-flop on the filibuster, or is he possibly talking about some type of “filibuster reform” that still keeps the 60-vote requirement for legislation? It’s not entirely clear based on his comments to The Hill.

Update (5:21 p.m.): Manchin wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon that he opposes repealing the filibuster. “I have never supported a repeal of the filibuster and I don’t support one now. I am willing to consider solutions that promote collaboration so the Senate is able to be a productive body again. But repealing the filibuster would result in even more partisanship.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported an aide to Manchin had not replied to a request from National Review for clarification; that aide is no longer working in Senator Manchin’s office.

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