(Headline USA) With President Joe Biden on the verge of his first big legislative victory, a swing-vote Democrat said Sunday he’s open to changing Senate rules that could allow for more party-line votes to push through other parts of the White House’s agenda.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said major legislation should always have significant input from the minority party.
But he noted there are other ways to change the rules that now require 60 votes for most legislation. One example: the “talking filibuster,” which requires senators to slow a bill by holding the floor, but then grants an “up or down” simple majority vote if they give up.
“The filibuster should be painful, it really should be painful and we’ve made it more comfortable over the years,” Manchin said. “Maybe it has to be more painful.”
“If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk,” Manchin added. “I’m willing to look at any way we can, but I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.”
Democrats are beginning to look to their next legislative priorities after an early signature win for Biden on Saturday, with the Senate approving a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan on a party-line 50-49 vote.
Final passage is expected Tuesday in the House if leaders can hold the support of progressives frustrated that the Senate narrowed unemployment benefits and stripped out an increase to the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Over the weekend, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, representing around 100 House liberals, called the Senate’s weakening of some provisions “bad policy and bad politics.”
But Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., also characterized the changes as “relatively minor concessions” and emphasized the bill retained its “core bold, progressive elements.”
Biden says he would sign the measure immediately if the House passed it. The legislation would allow many Americans to receive $1,400 in direct checks from the government this month.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pledged that Senate Republicans would block passage of a sweeping House-passed bill, which would ensure that all future elections suffer from the same voter fraud as did the 2020 presidential election.
The measure, known as HR 1, would let unelected so-called experts draw partisan congressional districts and force all states to adopt mail-in voting systems.
“Not one Republican is going to vote for HR 1 because it’s a federal takeover of elections, it sets up a system where there is no real voter security or verification,” Graham said. “It is a liberal wish list in terms of how you vote.”
The Senate is divided 50-50, but Democrats control the chamber because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the tie-breaking vote.
With 60 votes effectively needed on most legislation, Democrats must win the support of at least some Republicans to partisan bills.
When asked about the voter fraud bill, Manchin on Sunday left the door open to supporting some kind of a workaround to allow for passage based on a simple majority, suggesting he could support “reconciliation” if he was satisfied that Republicans had the ability to provide input.
“I’m not going to go there until my Republican friends have the ability to have their say also,” Manchin said.
On Sunday, the anti-filibuster advocacy group “Fix Our Senate” praised Manchin’s comments as a viable way to get past “pure partisan obstruction” in the Senate.
Manchin spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “Fox News Sunday,” CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week,” and Graham appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.