The latest proclamation from King Joe runs counter to the buzz promoted by the media. Supposedly, Joe Manchin had returned to negotiations on Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, and might even have signaled a willingness to do a nuclear-option carve-out on the filibuster for the election-federalizing SB1.
Not so fast, Manchin said a few minutes ago. First, no one’s changed positions at all on BBB and there haven’t been any new talks so far:
REPORTER: Could you characterize where you are right now on BBB and what your conversations have been with the White House?
MANCHIN: There's been no conversations after I made my statement. pic.twitter.com/Ju7mrpJILt
— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) January 4, 2022
That’s pretty clearly been dead for a while. Chuck Schumer has reprioritized the Senate to work on SB1 and “voting reform” of late, threatening to detonate the nuclear option to get the filibuster carve-out. That’s also not looking promising:
Joe Manchin, speaking with reporters, seems kinda sorta open (but maybe not!) to the idea of changing the filibuster rules for voting rights. But it's Joe Manchin, so his position, whatever it is, might change tomorrow morning based on what he reads in Axios. Who knows. pic.twitter.com/PdwHGLTpcf
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 4, 2022
“And the reason I say it’s a heavy lift is once you change a rule or you have a carve out, I've always said this – Anytime there's a carve out, you eat the whole turkey. There’s nothing left because it comes back and forth,” Manchin said.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 4, 2022
“You want things that will be sustainable,” and the nuclear option is anything but. Manchin doesn’t mind negotiating rules changes, but he wants Republican buy-in for any such reforms. Manchin opposed the nuclear option in 2013 under Harry Reid and again in 2017 under Mitch McConnell. Manchin has been perhaps the most consistent member of the upper chamber on this point.
Sahil Kapur says this is basically the status quo ante, just recapitulated:
In sum: The Manchin puzzle is the same as it's been all year. He wants any filibuster rule change to have bipartisan support (needs 67 via regular order, 50+1 via nuclear option). But Republicans don't want a rule change that enables passage of election legislation they oppose.
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) January 4, 2022
Let’s also not forget Kyrsten Sinema, who if anything has been even more firm in her position not to tinker with filibuster rules at all. Plus, it’s still not clear whether other Democrats — particularly in marginal states like New Hampshire, Nevada, Montana, and Arizona (Mark Kelly’s running this year) — are on board for another nuclear detonation that will eventually blow up in their faces. Perhaps as soon as January 2025, in fact, when Republicans might have the opportunity to use one-party control to pass whatever they think is going to “save the republic.”
That’s what Manchin means when he says that carve-outs mean you end up eating the whole turkey. He learned that lesson after 2013. Too bad his colleagues keep ignoring it.
So will Schumer force a vote on this anyway? Punchbowl thinks he may have no choice:
Schumer: “We are having active discussions with them, several a day. I just spoke to Senator Manchin three or four hours ago, and even over the holiday break, the New Year’s and Christmas break, we’ve been talking constantly, not just me, but just about every one of the 48 Democratic senators who supports not only the proposal, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Restore the Voting Rights Act, but changing the [Senate] rules.”
“Well, we’ve got to keep pressing them and pressing them and pressing them until they do. There is too much at risk here. If obviously they were saying yes to us, we wouldn’t have to worry about this.
“But we do have to worry. And we have to keep pushing. But when senators go to them and say, ‘I will lose my election unless we do something about voting rights,’ when senators come to them and say, ‘We will not have a democracy anymore,’ not just for two years but for 10 years, and constant senators of all different stripes, including some of our most moderate senators – we have a group of three senators who is constantly talking to them … Angus King, Jon Tester and the senator from Virginia [Tim Kaine] – as well, saying to them … ‘We were not for changing the rules but we’ve changed our mind.’ Too much is at stake.”
This tactic of using other Democrats and outside groups to pressure Manchin and Sinema is exactly what happened in December. It didn’t work.
It doesn’t appear to be working now, either. On either priority.