West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin took to the floor of the chamber Thursday in an epic speech justifying his vote regarding the filibuster rule.
Democratic leaders in the Senate have been pushing to nuke the filibuster rule, which is a requirement that 60 votes are necessary to move most legislation, so they can pass a voter reform measure Republicans uniformly oppose.
Manchin has long opposed overturning the filibuster, as has Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, another Democratic moderate, and explained why he voted to keep the rule in place.
“I cannot support such a perilous course for this nation when elected leaders are sent to Washington to unite our country, not to divide our country,” the senator said.
“Let this change happen in this way, and the Senate will be a body without rules,” he said.
“We’ve changed the rules,” in the past, Manchin said. “But we changed them with the rules. We didn’t break the rules to change the rules. But all of a sudden now we just can’t do it anymore. Just got to blow it up,” he said.
“The rule book means that the rules changes are done on the basis of broad, bipartisan consensus, not imposed on the minority by raw majority power,” he explained. “No matter who is in power.”
“The majority does not have that power to do that in this Senate.”
“Now, my colleagues propose to sidestep this process,” he said. “They would use the nuclear option to override a rule we have used ourselves. But now seem to find it unacceptable.”
“Unacceptable now. We are going to break the rules to change the rules,” the senator said. “And make up new rules as we go along and invite ourselves to the future majorities to disregard the rule book at will.”
“We don’t have to change the rules to make our case to the American people about voting rights,” the senator said. “We could have kept voting rights legislation as a pending business for the Senate today. Next week, a month from now, this is important. Let’s work it out. Let’s see. Stay here and go at it.”
“Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel on the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart,” he said. “Contrary to what some have said, protecting the role of the minority – Democrat or Republican – has protected us from the volatile political swings that we have endured over the last 233 years.”
“Eliminating the filibuster would be the easy way out,” he argued.
“We’re called the United States, not the divided states,” he said. “And putting politics and party aside is what we’re supposed to do. It’s time that we do the hard work to forge difficult compromises that can stand the test of time.”
The vote to end the filibuster was 52 – 48 in favor of not ending it, with Sens. Manchin and Sinema joining the 50 Republicans.
In a speech to the Senate last week Sen. Sinema explained why she would not vote to end the filibuster.
“There’s no need for me to restate my longstanding support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. There’s no need for me to restate its role in protecting our country from wild reversals of federal policy,” she said. “This week’s harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute for what I believe could have and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year.”