WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Joe Manchin sounded a skeptical note Tuesday about the prospects of easing the Senate’s filibuster rules, raising doubts about whether he will provide crucial support to the Democrats’ renewed push for voting legislation they say is needed to protect democracy.
Manchin told reporters it was his “absolute preference” that Republicans support any changes and he described acting on a purely partisan basis as a “heavy lift.”
“I think that for us to go it alone, no matter what side does, it ends up coming back at you pretty hard,” Manchin said.
Manchin’s skepticism comes just one day after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the Senate will vote soon on easing the filibuster rules. In a letter Monday to colleagues, Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate “must evolve” and will “debate and consider” the rule changes by Jan. 17 as the Democrats seek to overcome Republican opposition to their elections law package.
“Let me be clear: January 6th was a symptom of a broader illness — an effort to delegitimize our election process,” Schumer wrote, “and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration — they will be the new norm.”
Also Tuesday, Manchin said his opposition to President Biden’s roughly $2 trillion package of social and environmental initiatives remains undimmed, as party leaders said work on the stalled measure was on hold until at least later this month.
“I feel as strongly today as I did then,” Manchin said in his first extended remarks since announcing his opposition on Dec. 19. He has cited concerns about the measure’s impact on inflation and federal deficits, criticisms other Democrats have dismissed as unfounded.
The election and voting rights package has been stalled in the evenly split 50-50 Senate, blocked by a Republican-led filibuster with Democrats unable to mount the 60 votes needed to advance it toward passage and unable to agree over potential changes to the Senate rules to reduce the 60-vote hurdle, despite months of private negotiations.
Two holdout Democrats — Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have argued that if and when Republicans take majority control of the chamber, they would use the lower voting threshold to advance bills Democrats strongly oppose.
Voting rights advocates warn that Republican-led states are passing restrictive legislation and trying to install election officials loyal to former President, Donald Trump in ways that could subvert future elections.