Manchin Quietly Discussing Changes to Senate Rules With Republicans


Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a key holdout on fellow Democrats’ aim to change the 60-vote legislative filibuster, is talking about small changes to Senate rules with Republicans, The Hill reported Wednesday.

Manchin’s discussions with GOP colleagues come as Democrats try to win him over on their push to “restore the Senate” — including reforming the filibuster, the news outlet noted.

Members of GOP leadership said Manchin had reached out to them to float potential ideas with an eye toward making it easier to get votes and bills to the floor, The Hill reported.

“Most of us would argue that the only thing that it takes to get the Senate working better is behavioral change … but he is trying to come up with some fairly, I would say, creative ideas about the rules,”  Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the No. 2 Senate Republican, told The Hill.

Thune told the Hill Manchin had spoken with other GOP senators and that there was a “considerable amount of interest in trying to make the Senate functional.” 

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., also told The Hill Manchin had talked to him.

“You know I had a lot of discussions with [Senate Majority Leader Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] on this topic when he was the ranking member on Rules and I was the chairman, and we could reopen that discussion,” Blunt told The Hill.

Manchin says he hasn’t changed his opposition to nixing the 60-vote threshold altogether or making a carve out. But he indicated talks are going on about smaller changes like making it easier to get amendment votes or bills to the floor, The Hill reported.

“I’ve been talking to Republicans and Democrats: How do we make the place work, so we can treat each other like human beings and try to get something accomplished and do the job we are supposed to do?” Manchin told The Hill, adding they were discussing “any rules that would basically help this place work.” 

Under the Senate’s rules, every member must agree to a floor vote; a single senator can slow down a court or administration nominee, block an amendment vote, or force a measure to meet the 60-vote threshold, The Hill noted. 

“There’s been casual discussions for some time,” Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told The Hill. “There aren’t that many things that they expect us to get done every single year, but we should be in a position to get those things done in a timely fashion.”

“I think there’s a lot of us that feel that way,” he added.

Because Republicans are unlikely to support filibuster reform, Democrats would need to invoke the “nuclear option,” an effort by the Senate to end a filibuster by a simple majority, even though rules specify it requires the consent of at least 60 senators.

“Everyone should be looking at how we make the place work better,” Manchin told The Hill. “We’ve had good conversations. We’ll see if something comes out of it. It should be done bipartisan.” 

Asked if he would support using the nuclear option, Manchin added: “I just said it should be bipartisan — why would you go nuclear option? … I’ve never voted for that. I’ve never voted for that, OK?”