Sen. Joe Manchin Weakens Previous Stance Supporting Filibuster - Was His Harder Line Simply Maneuvering For Pork?

P. Gardner Goldsmith | June 17, 2021
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In the past 24 hours, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) appears to have weakened his well-promoted resistance to his party changing from 60 to 50 the vote threshold what would break Senate filibusters on most bills.

It’s a complicated game, and Manchin has been playing it like a master, almost as if he were a seasoned politician posing as “moderate” while using his “on the fence” act to angle for concessions and funding on projects favoring his political friends in his home state.

It goes back to November, 9, 2020, when Manchin appeared on FoxNews to tell Brett Baier that he was opposed to packing the Supreme Court, and opposed to lowering the vote threshold to break filibusters on legislation. 

When they talk about packing the courts or ending the filibuster, I will not do that.

In late May, Manchin reiterated his position, strengthening it by adding that he would not support lowering that filibuster-break number, even if upholding the 60-vote threshold meant defeat for a bill he supported – that being the proposal to create a sham “insurrection commission” to keep pushing the fake narrative that the Capitol chaos on January 6, 2021 was an “insurrection” when not one person was charged with such a crime.

As Andrew Solender wrote for Forbes on May 25:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday he will hold steadfast in his commitment not to scrap the Senate filibuster even if Republicans use it to block a commission he supports to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol – an outcome that appears all but inevitable even as several GOP senators say they will vote for the bill.

Three days later, Manchin voted for the end of debate -- aka “cloture” – but enough Republicans opposed cloture that the 60-vote threshold was not reached. (Cassidy (LA), Collins (ME), King (I-ME), Murkowski (AK), Portman (OH), Romney (UT), and Sasse (NE) all voted WITH the Dems.) 

But Manchin continued to claim opposition to lowering the vote-threshold, and he put his name to an op-ed published June 6 by the Charleston Gazette-Mail stressing this position even as he acknowledged Republican worries over the clearly unconstitutional “For the People Act” HR-1, which would federalize state control over Presidential voting procedures, and he as he pushed the equally unconstitutional John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which, in part, would mandate a “pre-clearing” procedure for state voting districts, requiring them to get Department of Justice approval as “not-discriminatory” BEFORE any state-level vote would be allowed. 

On the filibuster issue, Manchin wrote:

As a reminder, just four short years ago, in 2017 when Republicans held control of the White House and Congress, President Donald Trump was publicly urging Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster. Then, it was Senate Democrats who were proudly defending the filibuster. Thirty-three Senate Democrats penned a letter to Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warning of the perils of eliminating the filibuster.

But now, despite all those statements – or, perhaps, because those statements were made to facilitate internal political leverage -- something is changing…

On June 16, The Intercept’s Lee Fang and Ryan Grim revealed the contents of a private Zoom conversation between Manchin and a group of big political donors in which he signaled to them that he was quite willing to negotiate a lower filibuster threshold.

The meeting was hosted by the group No Labels, a big money operation co-founded by former Sen. Joe Lieberman that funnels high-net-worth donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans. Among the gathering’s newsworthy revelations: Manchin described an openness to filibuster reform at odds with his most recent position…

Discussing the call, John McCormack notes, for National Review:

’That’s that’s (sic) one of many good, good suggestions I’ve had,’ he (Manchin) said of lowering the cloture total from 60 to 55.

And, shocker, this comes coterminous with Manchin’s suddenly warmer position on the Dem-controlled, Biden-pushed $974 BILLION “Infrastructure bill” many of those same RINO Republicans are beginning to favor. 

As Andrew Solander reports for Forbes:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Monday backtracked on his opposition to Democrats going it alone on infrastructure as a group of senators from both parties struggles to find a solution that will bring together the 60 Senate votes needed to pass a bipartisan bill.

Related: Manchin Receiving Major Blowback for Standing Against Dem Voting Bill and Filibuster

This “bipartisan bill” is filled with unconstitutional federal handouts of cash, cash that will be sucked out of the productive remnants of the free economy and from future generations via federal assumption of more debt. And you can bet that the strangely-changing-on-filibuster Joe Manchin has been deeply involved in the negotiations for this enormous pile of pork. 

In fact, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham (R) said so, telling FoxNews in April:

’There's probably an $800 [billion] to $900 billion infrastructure bill that we could all agree on,’ Graham said. ‘Watch Joe Manchin. I think there's a sweet spot on infrastructure where we can find pay-fors that won't hurt the economy.’

Of course, Graham is fundamentally wrong in his belief that a federal pork bill “won’t hurt the economy” since any act of theft and redistribution of wealth is, by definition, harmful, and prevents real people from making the personal valuations necessary for a functional economy. But Graham knew enough to keep his eyes on Manchin.

And National Review’s McCormack notes that if the Dems want to change the filibuster rules, such a move, itself, will require a two-thirds vote.

So while this “Manchin evolution” doesn’t shed light on the origin of the filibuster, it serves as a powerful lesson to all believers of liberty. It reminds folks to beware that they do not fall into the habit of creating “circumstantial heroes.”