Joe Manchin Supported Filibuster Reform in 2011, Opposes Democrats' Plan Now

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) looks set to vote against Democrats' attempt to change the rules of the Senate filibuster in order to pass two pieces of voting rights legislation on Wednesday.

Manchin, who is considered to be on the right of the party, told reporters Tuesday he was opposed to a rules change that would allow debate on the legislation to end with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes required.

The senator said that while others had changed their views on the filibuster, he had not. However, pages still live on Manchin's website show that he was once in favor of reforming the parliamentary procedure.

Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday: "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 said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is set to propose a change that would require opponents of the voting rights legislation to hold the Senate floor in a so-called "talking filibuster."

"Once members of the minority party have exhausted all of their speaking rights and defended their position on the Senate floor, the debate will have run its course and the Senate will move to vote on final passage at a majority threshold, which has always been the threshold for final passage," Schumer explained.

Before Schumer's announcement on Tuesday, Manchin rejected the idea of allowing debate to proceed with a simple majority.

"That's never happened in the history of our country," he said. "You know, basically, there's never been a simple majority vote to basically get off a debate."

"I don't know how you break a rule to make a rule," the senator added.

Nevertheless, Manchin seemed to favor reform of the filibuster in 2011 when he was a freshman senator. An October 2011 article from The Charleston Daily Mail, which still appears on Manchin's website, outlines the senator's frustration with the filibuster.

At that time, Senate Democrats had failed to overcome a Republican filibuster of then President Barack Obama's $447 billion jobs bill. Though Manchin said he would not have voted for the bill in its original form, he also took aim at the filibuster. He suggested that a compromise might have been possible if the filibuster were overcome.

"We have become paralyzed by the filibuster and an unwillingness to work together at all, just because it's an election cycle," Manchin said.

"We couldn't even get the horse in the start gate, let alone to run the race. That's the problem here," he said. "It's political and it's being played absolutely unmercifully at the highest level."

In December, 2011 Manchin issued a press release outlining what he called the "12 pillars of the 'Make Congress Work' agenda."

Pillar number three said: "Fix the filibuster: If senators want to halt action on a bill, they must take to the floor and hold it through sustained debate; end filibusters on motions to proceed to debate."

That proposal is strikingly similar to what Schumer is expected to bring before the Senate on Wednesday, yet Manchin—along with Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)—remains the most significant stumbling block to filibuster reform and thus passing the voting rights legislation.

Newsweek has asked Senator Joe Manchin's office for comment.

Joe Manchin Questions Witnesses at a Hearing
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) questions witnesses during a hearing about hydropower in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on January 11, 2022 in Washington, DC. Manchin has said he will not support reform of the Senate filibuster. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images