Politics Magazine

Manchin's Excuses For Keeping Filibuster Don't Make Sense

Posted on the 13 January 2022 by Jobsanger
Manchin's Excuses For Keeping Filibuster Don't Make Sense 

Joe Manchin is still refusing to do anything about the Senate filibuster, and his excuses for protecting the filibuster are making no sense at all. The following is part of an op-ed on this by Greg Sargent in The Washington Post:

Everyone had a grand old time mocking Sen. Joe Manchin III for claimingon Tuesday that we’ve had the filibuster for 232 years. This is historically false. What’s more, the West Virginia Democrat’s deeper argument here — that in some sense the filibuster preserves a vision of the Senate in keeping with that of the framers — is also profoundly off-base

But now Manchin has expanded even further on that deeper argument. And the case he made in this regard captures the essential fallacy of the pro-filibuster position as clearly as one could possibly expect.

The stakes are high. Democrats are making one final push for a package of protections for voting rights and democracy. Given uniform GOP opposition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will hold a vote soon on whether to suspend the filibuster to pass them. . . .

Manchin has now offered a new justification for this position.

“I mean, voting is very important. It is a bedrock of democracy,” Manchin told reporters Tuesday. “But to break the opportunity for the minority to participate completely — that’s just not who we are.”

This idea, that even a temporary filibuster carve-out betrays “who we are,” essentially posits that the Senate supermajority requirement is in some sense more faithful to American liberal constitutionalism than protecting voting rights is.

This is absurd. First, the idea that nixing the filibuster would “break the opportunity for the minority to participate completely” is unintentionally revealing about Manchin’s true stance. It’s false on its face: Needing a simple majority to pass legislation doesn’t stop senators from the minority party from entering into negotiations with the majority party to try to influence said legislation.

In fact, ending the filibuster might increase the incentive for a bloc of GOP senators to seek such negotiations. Without it, bills could pass with a majority of fewer than 60 votes, meaning, say, five moderate Republicans would have more opportunities to get on legislation with a real chance of passage, burnishing their bipartisan cred while delivering for constituents. Moderate Democrats who want to be seen working with Republicans would help that happen.

What ending the filibuster actually would stop is the opportunity for the minority party to participate entirely on its own terms. With the filibuster, virtually nothing can pass. This facilitates and encourages a deliberate opposition strategy of denying the president’s party legislative victories to make the government under that party more dysfunctional.

This is the reality of the “opportunity for the minority to participate” that Manchin is personally enabling. And it actually reduces the opportunity for more bipartisan legislation to pass — the opposite of what he suggests.

Second, you know who is actually working hard to “break the opportunity of the minority to participate”? GOP-controlled state legislatures are. They are passing restrictions on voting access in many states, and they’re doing so by simple majority — on a largely partisan basis.

Manchin himself agrees this is a serious problem. That’s why he supports the Freedom to Vote Act, which would curb such GOP efforts by creating baseline standards for early voting, same-day registration and voting by mail, while also limiting partisan capture of election machinery.

What Manchin opposes is achieving those monumentally important things on a partisan basis. But here’s the rub: Either Republicans will keep restricting voting on a partisan basis, or Democrats will protect and expand voting access on a partisan basis. Partisanship will prevail either way. The only question is which partisanship prevails.

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