Manchin Welcomes Primary Challenge over Opposition to Nuclear Option for Filibuster

Despite the resistance he’s faced from his party over his opposition to reforming the legislative filibuster through unconventional avenues, moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he won’t be surrendering his long-held position.

Ahead of a Democratic Caucus meeting Tuesday evening, Manchin told the press that he will refuse to support a return to the “talking filibuster,” which would nix the 60-vote threshold needed to advance legislation through the Senate, allowing Democrats to move their voting package across the finish line.

The “talking filibuster” is an old-fashioned style for the rule requiring at least one member of the minority to command the Senate floor to maintain the filibuster. Democrats shifted strategy to resurrecting the “talking filibuster” after their last pitch to allow a “carve-out” for the voting bill, exempting it from the 60-vote hurdle, failed last week.

While Manchin has been amenable to revising the filibuster, but not outright abolishing it, he rejected the Democrats’ idea of using a simple majority vote to do so, otherwise known as the “nuclear option,” which has scarcely been exercised and Republicans fear is a slippery slope to an overhaul of the legislative process. Ordinarily, a rule change for legislative procedure requires two-thirds of members present and voting.

Manchin seemed unfazed by suggestions of a primary challenge over what fellow Democrats are calling obstruction on his part, noting that he’s never faltered on his pro-filibuster stance. “I’ve been primaried my entire life. That would not be anything new for me,” he said.

While his Democratic colleagues, most notably Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, have flip-flopped on the filibuster when it was politically advantageous, Manchin said he’s always been consistent.

“The majority of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus have changed their minds. I respect that. They have a right to change their minds. I haven’t. I hope they respect that too. I’ve never changed my mind on the filibuster,” he added.

Despite the fact that Manchin and his centrist counterpart Kyrsten Sinema are crucial to advancing Democratic policy priorities, as they hold the swing votes, the party has resorted to antagonizing the pair for their inflexibility. Manchin said “he doesn’t take anything personally,” as Schumer declared Tuesday that the chamber will end debate Wednesday and proceed with the nuclear option despite insufficient votes.

“If Republicans choose to continue the filibuster of voting rights legislation, we must consider and vote on the rules changes,” Schumer said. “Long odds are no excuse for this chamber to avoid this important issue. Again, members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote. We’re going to vote.”

Without Manchin and Sinema’s acquiescence to change the filibuster, however, the Democrats’ voting legislation is all but guaranteed to fail.

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