Joe Manchin Vows to 'Protect the Filibuster' After Expressing Openness to Procedural Reform

Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has reiterated his commitment to "protect the filibuster" despite saying last Sunday that he was open to reforming its use.

Progressive Democrats have supported eliminating the filibuster in order to bypass Republicans opposed to President Joe Biden's legislative agenda. However, Republicans and moderate Democrats, like Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, say that eliminating the filibuster will kill any hope of senatorial bipartisanship.

"I want to make it very clear to everybody," Manchin told Politico on Tuesday. "There's no way that I would vote to prevent the minority from having input into the process in the Senate. That means protecting the filibuster. It must be a process to get to that 60-vote threshold."

Joe Manchin protect Senate filibuster comment Democrats
Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has reiterated his commitment to "protecting the filibuster" just days after he expressed openness to making adjustments on how it can be used. In this photo, Manchin ask questions during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, at the U.S. Capitol on February 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. Leigh Vogel/Getty

Manchin has repeatedly defended keeping the filibuster, stating that the Senate should be required to consider the views of the minority party when shaping legislation.

When asked about worries that Republicans will oppose all Democratic bills, Manchin replied, "I haven't seen an effort by our leadership to go sit down and work with them. No one's making any effort at all. They just assume it's going to be holy warfare."

Manchin's comments on Tuesday sought to clarify comments he made on Sunday about potentially reforming the filibuster. He had told Fox News Sunday that he thinks using the filibuster has become too "comfortable" and should be more "painful."

One of the ways the filibuster could be made more "painful" would be to re-implement a "talking filibuster." A talking filibuster would require senators opposed to legislation to physically remain on the Senate floor as long as they sought to block its progress. The physical exertion required for indefinite filibusters might then lead to more compromises.

"The filibuster should be painful. It really should be painful," Manchin said. "We've made it more comfortable over the years, not intentionally—maybe just it evolved into that. Maybe it has to be more painful. Maybe you have to stand there. There's things we can talk about,"

"I'm going to continue to support the filibuster," he added. "I think it defines who we are as a Senate. I'll make it harder to get rid of it, but it should be painful if you want to use it."

On January 25, a spokesperson for Senator Sinema said that she is "against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster."

Democratic Montana Senator Jon Tester has said that he also supports keeping the filibuster, but added that he would support eliminating it if Republicans use it to obstruct Democratic legislation.

Comparatively, Democratic Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar wrote in a January 25 tweet, "Don't let Republicans' calls for bipartisanship fool you. When they were in power, they used every tool imaginable to pass their agenda. We must do the same. Abolish the filibuster, and let's pass bold, progressive legislation to deliver on our promises."

Political writer David Litt wrote in a 2020 Atlantic article that the filibuster has been used by social conservatives since the 1920s to hold back progress on civil rights. Litt argued that the filibuster gives rural white states with smaller populations disproportionate power over legislation proposed by senators from larger and more racially diverse states.

Current filibuster rules require most legislation to get at least 60 Senate votes to pass. With an evenly split Senate—50 to 50—Democrats worry that 10 Republican senators will never back any significant legislation on expanding voting access, LGBTQ rights, immigration and other high-profile national issues.

All 50 senators in the Democratic Caucus would need to vote in favor of ending or modifying the filibuster for it to change.

Newsweek contacted Manchin's office for comment.