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Dems get slammed by Manchin again. Filibuster to stay in the Senate.

Manchin Deflates Democrats’ Hopes of Changing Filibuster, Passing Election Bills West Virginia senator says changes to Senate procedures should include Republicans’ support

By Siobhan Hughes, WSJ Updated Jan. 4, 2022 7:43 pm ET WASHINGTON—Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) cast doubt on a Democratic push to change Senate procedures to weaken the minority party’s power, dealing a blow to party leaders’ effort to change the filibuster and advance their elections bills. In comments to reporters Tuesday, Mr. Manchin said he was engaged in talks about possible changes to the filibuster rule, which currently requires the votes of 60 senators to advance most bills. But, he said, any changes should have the buy-in of Republicans as well, and he was leery of Democrats going it alone. “Any way you can do a rules change to where everyone’s involved and basically that’s a rule that usually will stay—that’s what you should be pursuing,” Mr. Manchin told reporters on Tuesday. “Being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option; it’s very, very difficult,” he said about lowering the filibuster threshold. “So it’s a heavy lift.” His comments came as many Senate Democrats have stepped up their calls for altering the filibuster to make it easier to pass legislation. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said that Democrats would put elections legislation on the floor and then would attempt to enact rules changes if Republicans again filibustered the legislation. Democrats’ Tax Plan a Balancing Act Between Moderates, Progressives The Democrats’ plan to pay for President Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better initiative will need to strike the right balance to appeal to progressives without alienating moderates. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib discusses with tax policy reporter Richard Rubin. Photo illustration: Todd Johnson

An aide to Mr. Schumer said that the Democrat was referencing both the “For the People Act,” which would have the effect of mandating mail-in voting and absentee voting nationwide, among other changes, and a bill named after the late Rep. John Lewis that would restore the power of the federal government to approve state election-law changes in states with a history of racial discrimination. That bill would also go further, by responding to a separate Supreme Court decision that Democratic aides said had weakened the ability of private actors to allege voting-rights abuses. Mr. Manchin also rejected the idea of making an exception to the filibuster for voting legislation. Some Democrats had floated that idea on the grounds that voting rights are the bedrock of all other rights. But Mr. Manchin said that making an exception for one bill would open the floodgates to exceptions for other legislation, ultimately rendering the filibuster meaningless. “Any time there’s a carve-out, you eat the whole turkey,” he said. “There’s nothing left.” Changing or eliminating the filibuster would require only 50 votes in the evenly divided Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie. But the Democrats’ strategy had already been on shaky ground due to misgivings expressed last year by Mr. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.). Mr. Manchin’s newly reaffirmed reluctance to change the Senate’s procedures, coming just one day after the Democratic majority leader put his shoulder into the effort, reaffirms that it remains a long shot to make any changes or enact new voting measures. “It’s an uphill fight,” Mr. Schumer said at a press conference Tuesday about the prospects for changes to the filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) accused Mr. Schumer of being “hellbent to try to break the Senate.” Mr. McConnell criticized the idea of a carve-out to filibuster rules in order to pass voting legislation. “There is no such thing as a narrow exception,” he said.

Most recently, Democrats had been discussing approaches that fell short of eliminating the filibuster altogether, and Mr. Schumer said Tuesday that lawmakers were looking at a variety of changes but didn’t give details. Among Democrats’ ideas are applying a twist to the 60-vote threshold, by requiring 41 senators to show up in person to block legislation, rather than requiring 60 senators to show up in support. Such a change would have the effect of forcing senators to be on hand at all times, even on weekends, because it would be paired with the right to call a vote at any time, Democrats and activists briefed on the conversations said. Late Tuesday, after a meeting of Democrats including Mr. Schumer, Mr. Manchin said the talks were productive while reiterating his support for the filibuster, saying it “needs to stay in place, any way, shape or form that we can do it.” But he also named modest changes he could back, including making the requirement three-fifths of senators present, rather than three-fifths of the full Senate, as well as removing the filibuster on allowing a bill to proceed to debate. Defenders of the filibuster say it works to produce durable policy built on compromise, but members of both parties have bemoaned the legislative gridlock it can create. Besides holding up their voting legislation, Democrats also say that the filibuster has blocked them from responding in a fulsome way to matters such as the growing power of China and the forces of technological change. But Republicans say that changing the filibuster would amount to a power grab and would also ignore the bipartisanship that produced big legislation last Congress, such as a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package and an annual defense policy bill. “The Senate actually functions,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) said on Twitter. “Getting 100% of what 1 party wants isn’t ‘functioning;’ it’s destroying.” —Andrew Duehren and Lindsay Wise contributed to this article. Write to Siobhan Hughes at Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8 Appeared in the January 5, 2022, print edition as 'Push on Filibuster Is Stymied.'

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