Every day his comments about the looming GOP filibuster of the January 6 commission sound more distraught. And every day that gets funnier given that he’s categorically refused to nuke the filibuster.
He’s taken an admirable principled stance under immense pressure from the left in defense of the Republican minority’s right to demand 60 yes votes to move legislation. But he seems unable to grasp that the GOP isn’t going to reward him for that by compromising on a matter like the commission that should be bipartisan but won’t be because McConnell has decided that the party’s electoral interests trump the country’s civic interests. And not for the first time.
Manchin either needs to suck it up and accept that his attempt at good-faith bipartisanship won’t be repaid in kind or he should go nuclear. This daily whining about how disappointed he is in McConnell surely can’t be much of a consolation prize to Dems who want him to ditch the filibuster and push Biden’s agenda through.
My statement on the January 6th Commission: pic.twitter.com/ZfNhQfKzmh
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) May 27, 2021
Asked last week about the GOP blocking the commission, he replied, “So disheartening. It makes you really concerned about our country… I’m still praying we’ve still got 10 good solid patriots within that conference.” A few days later, as the odds of a filibuster grew, he and Kyrsten Sinema issued this statement:
NEW from Manchin and Sinema: "We implore our Senate Republican colleagues to work with us to find a path forward on a commission to examine the events of January 6th." pic.twitter.com/rZzeyagN82
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) May 25, 2021
Having the two most centrist Dems in the caucus warn publicly that they expected compromise on the commission seemed like a hint that ending the filibuster might be on the table if Republicans disappointed them. But reporters asked Manchin about that — and he reiterated that he won’t go nuclear even if the commission tanks.
So what’s the point of this continued grumbling? If the idea is to try to guilt Republican undecideds into supporting the commission when Schumer puts it on the floor, he should have maintained strategic ambiguity about the filibuster instead of taking the nuclear option off the table. Once he did that, McConnell was free to shrug and continue to call for blocking the commission. If Manchin wants to put on a sad face about it afterward, let him. What does McConnell care?
Here was the whip count as of yesterday afternoon:
EMOJI WHIP COUNT: On voting to break a filibuster of Jan. 6 commission bill
(10 GOP 👍 needed to proceed)
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) May 26, 2021
What’s especially distressing to Manchin, I assume, is that they’re only moving towards opening debate on the House’s commission bill right now. This isn’t the final cloture vote, which would determine whether the bill passes or not. This is the vote on whether it should even be considered.
Can he find 10 Republicans willing to debate the bill?
Mitt Romney anticipates the criticism to come if he can’t:
“I think the perception is on the part of the public that the January 6 Commission just trying to get to the truth of what happened, and that Republicans would be seen as not wanting to let the truth come out,” Romney told CNN on Wednesday. “I don’t believe that’s what’s the motivation but I think that’s the perception.”
The motivation isn’t to stop the truth from coming out, as Republicans don’t have the numbers in the House to do that. Pelosi’s going to create a select committee to investigate the insurrection if the commission tanks in the Senate. The motivation for Republicans in blocking the commission is to make it easier to discredit the truth as it comes out by dismissing the House select committee as a partisan shop whose findings can’t possibly be trusted. That’s harder to do with a commission staffed by people from outside elected politics so McConnell would rather let Pelosi and the Dems lead the probe instead.
Brian Sicknick’s mother is on the Hill today hoping to meet with Republican senators and lobby them to support the commission, part of what I assume is a Democratic-orchestrated PR effort to make the filibuster as painful as possible for Republicans:
In her first extended public comments since the death of her son, Gladys Sicknick, mother of fallen @CapitolPolice Officer Brian Sicknick, says “I just couldn’t stay quiet anymore.” Angry at opposition from some Republican lawmakers to Jan. 6 commission. #CapitolRiots pic.twitter.com/jdV9ZFr3n0
— Eric Flack (@EricFlackTV) May 27, 2021
That’s officer Michael Fanone with her. At least 12 GOP senators have reportedly agreed to meet with her, no doubt believing that hearing her out will mitigate some of the political damage that comes later from voting no. Imagine voting no after turning her and Fanone away. You could extend that logic to the vote on opening debate too: Arguably, supplying 10 Republican votes for that is good politics inasmuch as it would throw Manchin a small bone for sticking by the filibuster and signal that the GOP is at least open to considering the commission bill on the merits.
From McConnell’s perspective, though, it may be that every day that the commission saga drags out in Congress is another day where the pressure grows on Republicans to approve it. If they’re destined to filibuster, better that they rip the band-aid off and do it up front and accept the political consequences than let this fester for weeks and build public support before they end up filibustering anyway.