Sen. Joe Manchin implored GOP senators to get behind a bill to establish a 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol attack, but he bluntly said he wouldn’t support any effort to gut the filibuster if Republicans succeed in blocking the measure.
Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat and crucial swing vote in the 50-50 Senate, has long said that he would not torpedo the Senate’s rule to require 60 votes to overcome a legislative filibuster, something he believes is designed to force consensus in the polarized body.
But with Republicans now poised to make their first successful legislative filibuster against a bill setting up a commission, Democrats want to ramp up pressure on Manchin to change course and support the so-called nuclear option that would allow them to change the filibuster rule by a simple majority vote.
On Tuesday, Manchin pushed back when asked if he would back the nuclear option to effectively blow up the filibuster and lower the 60-vote threshold if Republicans block the bill this week as expected. “No,” Manchin said. “I can’t take the fallout.”
Later in the day, Manchin said “no, no, no” when asked if his position over the filibuster would change over the GOP blockade.
“This is the long game, not the short game,” Manchin said, pointing to how the 9/11 commission took roughly a year to get established. “The Senate is very deliberate.”
The bill would require at least 10 Senate Republicans to vote with all 50 members of the Democratic caucus in order to pass the legislation and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk. But as of Tuesday, just two Senate Republicans — Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski — have specifically said they would vote for the bill.
“It would piss me off,” said Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, when asked if a GOP filibuster would get to support invoking the nuclear option to change the filibuster rules. “It would just be awful.”
The bill says the panel would be made up of 10 commissioners, selected evenly between the two parties, and they would have joint subpoena power to look into the January 6 attack and the “influencing factors” behind it. They would have to report their findings by the end of the year.
Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican, is floating changes to the House-passed bill over her concerns that the staff of the commission could lean Democratic because of the power of chairman to influence hiring. She also said that that the investigation could last into in 2022, an election year that could make it vulnerable to political influences.
On the timing question, the House bill already has a deadline for the end of the year. But Collins has concerns about a post report “wrap up” period could extend for two months beyond that.
The proposal drew the ire of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Obviously, we’ll look at any proposal, but it can’t just undo the commission. One of the proposals I have heard have a separate Republican staff. You can’t have a commission with two warring staffs. I’ve never seen that happen.”
Manchin told CNN that Schumer should accept the changes, even as the New York Democrat expressed reservations about the modifications on Tuesday.
“I don’t think there’s much concern at all because it takes away any concerns anybody would have to be against it — unless it’s pure politics. I pray to God it’s not that,” Manchin said.
But even with those changes getting a bill out of the Senate seems doubtful at best — given the stiff opposition from GOP leaders.
“I think, at the heart of this recommendation by the Democrats, is they would like to continue to debate things that occurred in the past,” Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. “They would like to continue to litigate the former President into the future.”
And McConnell made no secret his concern that such a probe could influence the 2022 midterms when Republicans hope to regain control of both chambers of Congress.
“We think the American people, going forward, and in the fall of ’22, ought to focus on what this administration is doing to the country, and what clear choices we’ve made to oppose most of these initiatives,” McConnell said. “So I think this is a purely political exercise that adds nothing to the sum total of information.”
Manchin called McConnell’s comments “extremely frustrating and disturbing.”
But asked if such a blockade changes his view on the GOP’s willingness to cut deals with him, Manchin shot back: “No. I’m still working with the same Republicans.”