Manchin Says He Wouldn’t Vote to Pack Supreme Court, End Filibuster

Manchin Says He Wouldn’t Vote to Pack Supreme Court, End Filibuster
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) attends the State of the Union address in the chamber of the House of Representatives in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Monday night that he wouldn’t support the Democrats’ push to add seats to the Supreme Court or end the filibuster.

If Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) win reelection—votes are still being tallied—and Democrats win the two Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs, it would leave a 50-50 tie in the Senate.

“Fifty-fifty means there’s a tie. But if one senator does not vote on the Democratic side, there is no tie, and there is no bill,” Manchin, considered one of the most moderate Democrats in the Senate, said during a virtual appearance on Fox News.

“So I commit to you tonight, and I commit to all of your viewers and everyone else that’s watching. I want to allay those fears, I want to rest those fears for you right now because when they talk about whether it be packing the courts, or ending the filibuster, I will not vote to do that,” Manchin added. “I will not vote to pack the courts, I think, and I will not vote to end the filibuster.”

The West Virginian, who first entered office in 2010, said the Senate was made to work in a bipartisan way.

“I thought we should be working together. It should take a minimum of 60. And that means you’re going to have to have a few Democrats or Republicans, depending on who’s in the majority, to work together. That’s what we’re all about. Why would you break that down? Then there’s no need to have the Senate,” he said.

Proposals to add seats to the nine-member Supreme Court gained traction among Democratic members of Congress in recent years. Others started supporting the idea after President Donald Trump got his third nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, considered and confirmed by the Senate. Democrats argued the body should have waited to see if he won the election before voting on her nomination.

“We must expand the Supreme Court,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote in a tweet earlier this year.

Sunlight shines through the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sept. 20, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Sunlight shines through the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Sept. 20, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Adding seats to the court would require a bill. The legislation would likely get no Republican support, making it imperative Democrats have enough votes among themselves to pass it in both the House and the Senate, as well as holding the presidency.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden repeatedly declined to weigh in on the proposal before telling a reporter last month that he’s “not a fan.” He did not commit to blocking a bill if it passed.

Democrats at present appear to have retained control of the House, with the Senate and White House unclear because of votes still being tallied and legal battles playing out.

Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) axed the filibuster for most judicial nominees in 2013, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) extended the removal to Supreme Court nominees in 2017.

Manchin voted against both moves.

Manchin has in the past showed a willingness to vote for Republican-led efforts, such as Trump’s Supreme Court nominees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

He pointed to the Kavanaugh vote in disputing claims he would bow from pressure inside his party to vote to end the filibuster, calling himself “a proud moderate conservative Democrat.”

Manchin decried socialism, the push to defund the police, and Medicare for All proposals.

“That’s not the Democrats I know. And yet we’ve been tagged, if you’ve got a D by your name you must be for all the crazy stuff and I’m not,” he said, calling on Democrats to promote more realistic policies.