West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III, a key moderate Democrat, reaffirmed his vow on Wednesday to protect the filibuster in the equally divided Senate and suggested his party not repeatedly resort to a fast-track budget process to do so. advance legislation without Republican votes.
Mr Manchin has long been one of the strongest supporters of the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate in the Upper House, even as he threatens to derail key elements of President Biden’s agenda. Although he has already considered possible reforms to the procedural obstacle, he has repeatedly reiterated the questions about what might push him to vote for the outright abolition of systematic obstruction, even as the Democrats played out various scenarios in which he could give in.
In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, Mr Manchin pledged that there was “no circumstance in which I would vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” and he urged party leaders to compromise on legislation instead of trying to bypass Republican opposition. . Ten Republicans are currently needed to join all Democrats in a 50-50 Senate to pass major legislation as part of the regular process.
The comments took on added significance after a senior Senate official on Monday issued guidelines that could allow Democrats to continue the accelerated budget reconciliation process at least once more before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. , after using it to pass Mr Biden’s nearly $ 1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill without any Republican votes.
“We will not solve our nation’s problems in one Congress if we are only looking for partisan solutions,” Manchin wrote. “Instead of focusing on eliminating filibuster or shortening the legislative process through budget reconciliation, it’s time we did our job.”
Pressure has mounted for Democrats to push further the boundaries of what a majority party can do unilaterally when it controls both houses of Congress and the White House, in order to keep a series of election promises. While Democrats do not yet have the votes to end filibustering, they have explored other avenues to ensure that Mr. Biden’s agenda becomes law.
In recent days, this has consisted of broadening the frequency of reconciliations, which allows some budget laws to clarify both chambers on a simple majority vote. Although Senate MP Elizabeth MacDonough appears to have endorsed the Democratic argument that they can use the process multiple times in a single fiscal year, it is still unclear how and when they might use these possible opportunities. , and why.
While Mr. Manchin did not categorically refuse to support another use of the expedited reconciliation process, he challenged the two sides to work together and compromise on key pieces of legislation, including changes in law. infrastructure and taxation. Any use of reconciliation would force Mr Manchin – and virtually all Democrats in Congress – to stand united behind the legislation.
“Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our fellow Republicans on important national issues,” Manchin wrote. “Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no and participate in the search for a real compromise with Democrats.”
While many questions remain about how Democrats could potentially use another chance at reconciliation, Mr. Biden and Congressional leaders insist they want to work with Republicans to reach compromises, especially on the vast $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal that the White House just unveiled.
“There are things that we are working on together – some that we have adopted and some that we will pass,” Biden said on Wednesday. He suggested that a group of 10 Republican senators who were looking to compromise on their pandemic relief plan had not done enough to restart negotiations with their original $ 618 billion plan. “If they came up with a plan that did the essentials and it was a billion – three or four, two or three – that allowed me to have pieces of everything in there, I would have been ready to compromise, but they did not, ”he added.
The group of 10 Republican senators subsequently released a joint statement Wednesday evening claiming that the proposal was “a first offer to the White House intended to open bipartite negotiations” which had instead been rejected “as totally inadequate in order to justify its decision. agreement. -a single strategy. “