For a sense of how credible West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is on protecting the filibuster, consider a 2018 campaign ad wherein he brandished a rifle and declared himself to be “Second Amendment always.” This ad allowed him to maintain the illusion that he was a gun-totin’ Mountain State patriot while he parroted the Democratic Party line. Manchin’s ad failed to mention that he twice introduced gun control legislation during his first term. Moreover, he is once again working on legislation to restrict gun rights. Sen. Manchin’s pledge to protect the prerogatives of the Republican Senate minority by supporting the filibuster is no more trustworthy than his support of the Second Amendment.
Manchin has claimed since the beginning of the year that he wouldn’t support eliminating the filibuster and even shouted at one reporter who asked him if there were any potential circumstances under which he would alter his position: “Never! Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about ‘never’?” Lately, however, his position has indeed been “evolving.” Recently, for example, he reiterated his resolve to protect the filibuster on NBC’s Meet the Press, but he added a new caveat on Fox News the same day: “Maybe it has to be more painful, maybe you have to stand there. There’s things we can talk about.” Manchin appeared to be suggesting a return to the hoary “talking filibuster.”
Until the 1960s, if a senator who wished to use the filibuster to stop a vote on a particular bill, he was required to stand and speak without yielding the floor. A group of senators willing to tag-team could extend the filibuster for weeks by rotating speakers. The longest filibuster on record involved a cadre of Democratic senators opposed to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Because the filibuster halted all other Senate business, these Democrats brought the Senate to a standstill for 60 days. Senate rules have since changed so a bill can be “filibustered” without shutting down the upper chamber. A particularly pernicious piece of legislation can be killed if it lacks the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster.
As it happens, just such a bill has been introduced in the Senate. On January 19, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the first Democratic bill in the new Congress will be the “For the People Act.” S 1 is virtually identical to HR 1, which passed in the House on March 3. For the Democratic leadership of both houses, this is the Holy Grail, and they fully intend to ram it down America’s throat even if they must kill the filibuster. This is why Joe Manchin is getting so much attention: he and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are the only Senate Democrats who claim to support the filibuster.
Just how bad is this bill? As Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation phrases it:
H.R. 1, the deceptively entitled “For the People Act,” has arrived in the U.S. Senate after a party-line vote in the House of Representatives. It is without doubt the most dangerous and irresponsible election bill I have ever seen. If it becomes law, it will interfere with the ability of states and their citizens to determine the qualifications and eligibility of voters, to ensure the accuracy and validity of voter registration rolls, to secure the integrity of elections, and to participate and speak freely in the political arena. H.R. 1 is an 800-page monstrosity that would usurp the role of the states. It would not only eliminate basic safety protocols, but mandate new, reckless rules.
It isn’t only conservatives who have issues with HR 1. The bill does such violence to the First Amendment that even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) objects to it in a January letter: “We continue to have significant constitutional concerns with the bill, particularly the ways it would restrict nonprofit organizations’ advocacy about issues of national importance.” The once nonpartisan public interest group also disapproves of provisions that require politically active groups, including tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations like itself, to disclose their donor names. Finally, the ACLU takes exception to the failure of House Democratic leaders to hold hearings before passing the legislation:
It is our understanding that the House of Representatives may permit a vote on final passage of H.R. 1 without a hearing on its content in this Congress or a markup in any of the committees of jurisdiction. At over 700 pages, H.R. 1 is a significant, ambitious, and complicated piece of legislation that addresses a wide range of issues. Committees, Members, and members of the public should have the opportunity to examine the bill and to debate and amend its contents before final passage.… We urge the House committees to follow regular order, including holding hearings and markups during this Congress—taking the time necessary to deliberate the provisions of this bill.
How bad must this legislation be to earn the disapprobation of the Heritage Foundation and the ACLU? Worse, all we have standing between us and this brazen Democratic power grab is Sen. Joe Manchin’s questionable commitment to preserving the filibuster and the ability of a first-term senator to stick to her principles amidst a barrage of bile from her fellow Democrats and the Fourth Estate. For a taste of how badly Sinema is being treated by the latter, the Daily Beast slimed her Tuesday morning in a post titled, “WTF Is Wrong With Kyrsten Sinema?” This charming foray into “journalism” demands to know why “She says she’s a Democrat. So why is she handing the keys to power to Mitch McConnell?”
It never occurs to the creatures who write such things that some people go to Washington to serve their constituents and their country. They can’t imagine that Sen. Sinema might actually want to do the right thing rather than the expedient thing. No honest auditor can possibly read HR 1 and conclude that it is anything but an attempt to eviscerate our electoral system and create a one-party state with the Democrats permanently in power. Joe Manchin, on the other hand, is a study in political dualism. He’s a gun-totin’ Mountain State patriot once he crosses the border into West Virginia, but his constituents would not recognize the party hack he becomes once he arrives back inside the Beltway.