Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who holds a pivotal vote in the closely split Senate as a moderate Democrat, on Sunday said that he still backs the procedural maneuver called the filibuster, but believes it “should be painful” to use.
Some Democrats have proposed eliminating the filibuster to prevent Republicans from blocking President Joe Biden’s initiatives. White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said Sunday that Biden is not calling for an end to the filibuster.
The filibuster necessitates a threshold of 60 votes in the 100-member Senate rather than a simple majority to move forward with most legislation. Both parties have made use of the filibuster over the years.
“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,” Manchin told “Fox News Sunday,” noting that he also believes the maneuver has become too easy for the chamber’s minority party to use.
“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.”
Under current rules, 60 votes are needed to advance most pieces of legislation in the Senate, except for presidential nominations and some budget-related provisions.
The Senate is split 50-50 but Democrats hold a slim majority in the chamber because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote. With 60 votes needed to end a filibuster, Democrats would need at least some support from Republicans to get many of Biden’s legislative priorities passed.
“The filibuster should be painful. And we have made it more comfortable over the years. Not intentionally maybe, it just evolved into that,” Manchin said.
Making the filibuster harder to use would encourage both parties to work together, Manchin suggested. He proposed that the process would become more rare if someone were made to stand up to speak on the floor.
Manchin emphasized the importance of having bipartisan input on matters of national interest, and of respecting the “minority.”
“The Senate is the most unique body of government in the world, of governing body in the world, it’s deliberate. It’s basically designed to make sure that the minority has input,” he told NBC News’s “Meet the Press” in one of four Sunday media appearances.
“If you want to make it [filibuster] a little bit more painful, make them stand there and talk, I’m willing to look at it any way we can. But I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.”
Manchin added that he doesn’t believe it would be necessary to pursue a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation—a process that prevents the use of a filibuster and would allow a bill to clear the Senate with a simple majority vote, which the Democrats currently hold.
“There’s no need for us to go to reconciliation until the other process has failed. That means the normal process of a committee, a hearing, amendments,” Manchin said when asked whether the process could be used in the future to pass voting reforms like those in House bill H.R.1.
It was used last week to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package without a single Republican vote in the Senate.
Manchin, however, said that while he won’t change his mind on supporting the filibuster, if “we have to get something done” on H.R.1 via reconciliation, he would only support it if he was certain that his “Republicans friends” had been able to provide input.
H.R. 1, also called the For the People Act, passed the Democrat-controlled House on March 3 on a largely party-line vote of 220-210. If signed into law, it would reform future elections based on the contested 2020 election rules implemented during the pandemic, alongside other changes to the electoral process and campaign financing.
“I will change my mind if we need to go to a reconciliation,” Manchin told Meet the Press but only after “my Republican friends have the ability to have their say also.”
Reuters contributed to this report.