Joe Manchin In SECRET ZOOM CHAT To Rich People Might Actually Reform Filibuster, Maaaaybe?

Joe Manchin In SECRET ZOOM CHAT To Rich People Might Actually Reform Filibuster, Maaaaybe?
Photo by Ryan Stanton, Creative Commons License 2.0

Today is Maybe Joe Manchin Can Do Something Reasonable We Hope Day at Wonkette, given his actually-pretty-good stance on getting a voter protection bill passed, and also the Intercept's report on leaked audio of a Zoom meeting in which Manchin discussed changes to the filibuster he might accept, as long as the filibuster isn't deep-sixed altogether. For all Manchin's public statements about preserving the filibuster, it seems he might be open to changes that might actually make it possible for Democrats to get stuff passed.

The leaked audio is from a Zoom call hosted by "No Labels," the big-money centrist-ish political fundraising outfit founded by Joe Lieberman, which I finally realized just today is different from the book No Logo by Naomi Klein, who Crom bless her is definitely not Naomi Wolfe.

The call covered a bunch of stuff, like the infrastructure bill, the voter protection bill, and how maybe people who look forward to hiring Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) when he retires from the Senate might want to chat with him about why a January 6 commission would be a good idea, not that Manchin's talking about bribery or anything because he never pro quo'd any quids. But we're going to just focus in on the filibuster stuff here.

The article points out that the rich No Labels crowd is on the whole very pro-filibuster, since that mechanism for blocking anything from passing the Senate without 60 votes "bottles up progressive legislation that would hit their bottom lines." And to that end, Manchin emphasized that he too wants to see things like the January 6 commission get passed, because if 10 Republican votes can be found, that would help defuse progressive calls to do away with the filibuster altogether:

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?'"

Gee, turns out he is paying attention, if not actually changing his mind.

Manchin said he might be open to two possible reforms of the filibuster. The one he's mentioned previously is the idea that to keep a filibuster going, the minority party would actually have to have 41 members present in the Senate chamber to prevent a bill from moving forward, instead of simply saying, "Mitch says no," as things work now. To continue blocking a vote, Republicans would have to keep butts in seats until Democrats gave up (or t'other way around if the Senate flips).

The other possibility was a proposal to reduce the total number of votes needed for cloture from 60 to 55, which again, Manchin seemed open to:

"That's that's one of many good, good suggestions I've had," he said. [...] Manchin went on to discuss the last time the cloture threshold was lowered, in the 1970s.

"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 said.

He acknowledged that 60 votes is "where I planted my flag," but said that he'd be open to something else as long as the survival of the filibuster were ensured, and yes he really does add that proviso every damn time. Then he went back to the idea of requiring opponents to actually show up to block cloture:

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.

He also said that, to do the whole bipartisan thing, there should be a requirement that any filibuster should require opponents of the bill to explain themselves instead of just saying no, never ever ever:

[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.

As an example, Manchin outlined the changes he wants to see in the voting protection bill, and specified what parts of the existing bill he doesn't like, and why.

It certainly sounds like it could be a "constructive" revision to the filibuster, although we'd want the 55-vote threshold and the butts-in-seats requirements too. If it were just a requirement to put objections on paper, you just know Republicans wouldn't hesitate to say they'd only vote for a bill if it eliminated gravity and the capital gains tax.

If Manchin actually followed through on these reforms, that would really make getting things passed far more likely. Now we'll have to see just how dedicated Manchin is to living up to his big ideas.

[Intercept / Image: Ryan Stanton (cropped), Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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