Democratic dreams of one-party rule were popped Wednesday when Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia made it very clear he would not allow his fellow Democrats to widen the partisan chasm ripping through American politics by eliminating the filibuster.
Manchin, a moderate, took his stand in an Op-Ed in The Washington Post, writing, “I have always said, ‘If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.'”
The filibuster is a Senate rule that allows the minority party to block passage of legislation until at least 60 votes can be gathered to end the parliamentary stall and bring an issue to a vote. In effect, this requires whichever party holds the majority in the Senate to win support from members of the minority party to pass major legislation.
Ending the filibuster has become a cause for many Democrats this year as a way to ram home President Joe Biden’s agenda. Despite a 50-50 party split in senators, the Democrats can win every vote that requires a simple majority through the intervention of Vice President Kamala Harris’s ability to cast the tie-breaking vote.
However, as long as the filibuster exists, Democrats would be required to get Republicans on board for most legislation.
Democrats were able to pass the COVID-19 relief bill through a process called budget reconciliation that allowed them to bypass the filibuster, but such a process would not be possible for bills such as the voting law changes Democrats have been trying to jam through the Senate.
In his Op-Ed, Manchin said the dream of the Founding Fathers should not be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
“It’s no accident that a state as small as West Virginia has the same number of senators as California or Texas. It goes to the heart of what representative government is all about,” he said, offering a constitutional lesson to those who simply see partisanship.
“The Founding Fathers understood that the challenges facing a rural or small state would always be very different from a more populous state. Designating each state with the same number of senators — regardless of the population — ensured that rural and small states and the Americans who live in them would always have a seat at the table.”
“The filibuster is a critical tool to protecting that input and our democratic form of government. That is why I have said it before and will say it again to remove any shred of doubt: There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Machin wrote.
“The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”
The senator said weakening the filibuster weakens the country’s ability to get along with itself.
“Every time the Senate voted to weaken the filibuster in the past decade, the political dysfunction and gridlock have grown more severe,” Manchin wrote.
He further advanced the theory that all political wisdom does not reside in the party that happens to be in control.
“The political games playing out in the halls of Congress only fuel the hateful rhetoric and violence we see across our country right now. The truth is, my Democratic friends do not have all the answers and my Republican friends do not, either. This has always been the case,” Manchin said.
He said both parties are wrong when they dodge difficult debates simply to get their way.
“Unfortunately, our leaders in the Senate fail to realize what goes around comes around. We should all be alarmed at how the budget reconciliation process is being used by both parties to stifle debate around the major issues facing our country today,” the senator wrote.
“Legislating was never supposed to be easy. It is hard work to address the needs of both rural and urban communities in a single piece of legislation, but it is the work we were elected to do,” he said.
Manchin said bad faith tactics must be replaced by good faith efforts on both sides.
“Senate Democrats must avoid the temptation to abandon our Republican colleagues on important national issues. Republicans, however, have a responsibility to stop saying no, and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats,” he wrote.
Relying on rule changes to pander to the extreme wing of one party or the other will set in motion a pendulum of chaos that will ruin the lives of the American people, the senator said.
“If the filibuster is eliminated or budget reconciliation becomes the norm, a new and dangerous precedent will be set to pass sweeping, partisan legislation that changes the direction of our nation every time there is a change in political control,” he wrote.
“The consequences will be profound — our nation may never see stable governing again.”
Manchin said partisan solutions fall short of what the nation needs.
“We will not solve our nation’s problems in one Congress if we seek only partisan solutions. Instead of fixating on eliminating the filibuster or shortcutting the legislative process through budget reconciliation, it is time we do our jobs,” he wrote.
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