Joe Manchin’s filibuster argument makes no sense

Sen. Joe Manchin may have just killed off a big chunk of President Biden’s agenda. The West Virginia Democrat has made it clear that he won’t go along with his party’s hopes to kill — or at least amend — the de facto supermajority requirement for most legislation that passes through the upper chamber of Congress.

“There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” he writes in a new op-ed for The Washington Post. “The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”

Manchin’s seemingly definitive declaration produced much weeping and gnashing of teeth on the left, and understandably so. Some big priorities for Democrats — such as HR 1, the voting rights bill now making its way through the legislative process — might well be impossible to pass in the near future: The party has just 50 votes at its disposal, along with the vice president’s potential tie-breaker that technically gives it a majority in the Senate, but it won’t get the 60 votes needed to break a certain Republican filibuster.

I’ve not been one to hold Manchin in contempt. In many ways, he is behaving rationally for an elected official who doesn’t want to alienate Republican voters in his deep-red state. It is in his political interest to be seen as a Democrat who isn’t quite as Democratic as the rest of his party. But his op-ed, which also takes a whack at the reconciliation process that occasionally allows budget-related bills to pass with a majority vote, makes an unconvincing case for keeping the filibuster.

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Three bad ideas stand out and need addressing:

Weakening the filibuster has produced more gridlock in the Senate. “Every time the Senate voted to weaken the filibuster in the past decade, the political dysfunction and gridlock have grown more severe,” Manchin writes, citing changes that let the Senate approve Cabinet nominees, federal judges, and Supreme Court justices on a simple majority vote.

That’s clearly not true. In the year before Democrats used the “nuclear option” in 2013 to end the filibuster on most judicial appointments, the Senate was able to confirm just 36 federal judges appointed by then-President Barack Obama. The year after? Eighty-four new judges. And whatever you think of the decision by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to nuke the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments in 2017, that decision allowed Republicans to confirm three new justices during President Donald Trump’s term. Where the filibuster has been weakened, Senate productivity has followed.

Eliminating the filibuster would produce wild swings in governance. “If the filibuster is eliminated or budget reconciliation becomes the norm, a new and dangerous precedent will be set to pass sweeping, partisan legislation that changes the direction of our nation every time there is a change in political control,” Manchin writes.

This notion ignores that even without the filibuster, turning bills into …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics

      

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