Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has made a number of seemingly contradictory comments about the filibuster. At one point, he was open to reforming it to require senators to actually hold the floor. Then he said he would not. He suggests it is an instrument to increase debate when in fact it prevents votes from being taken and in some cases forces the majority party to resort to reconciliation.

Manchin’s most bizarre comment concerned the Jan. 6 insurrection. “January 6 changed me. I never thought in my life, I never read in history books to where our form of government had been attacked, at our seat of government, which is Washington, D.C., at our Capitol, by our own people,” Manchin said. He continued: “So, something told me, ‘Wait a minute. Pause. Hit the pause button.’ Something’s wrong. You can’t have this many people split to where they want to go to war with each other.”

Here’s what you need to know about the procedure’s complicated history meant to delay, delay, delay. (Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

Unless you think the filibuster prompted the insurrectionists to seek to overturn the election, his comments make zero sense. Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) was blunt:

HOST JAKE TAPPER: What effect did January 6 have on you?
CLYBURN: It had a tremendous effect on me.
And when I saw that Capitol policeman that I see every day complaining about how many times he was called the N-word by those people who were insurrectionists out there, when I see John Lewis’ photo being torn to pieces and scattered on the floor, that told me everything I needed to know about those insurrectionists.
And I would remind anybody who reflect on the 6th of January to think about these issues as well. And all of us know that they're there to perpetuate -- they were there to perpetuate a lie.
This president told lies. They reacted to those lies. And, quite frankly, they know full well that they are lies.

Many Republicans either continue to perpetuate the Big Lie. Others just remain massive parts of a cult that worships at the disgraced former president’s increasingly demented fount of lies, obscenities and attacks.

So why would Manchin see Jan. 6 as evidence that he has sufficient colleagues across the aisle to adhere to “regular order”? Well, perhaps we should stop hanging on every word he says. As my Post colleague Ashley Parker, appearing on “Meet the Press,” delicately put it, “one of the challenges sometimes in understanding and parsing exactly what he’s saying is that he is often not looking at sort of the holistic picture. … [H]e often says things that seem very contradictory because he’s answering one question or another and not necessarily answering the broader thing of, he wants bipartisanship.”

Instead of trying to make sense of Manchin’s impulsive answers and contradictory statements, the White House should enlist him in this project: Find 10 Republican senators who will support a bill that all 50 Democrats will still support. Manchin obviously has a completely different conception of the GOP than most of the political world. So let him have a crack at it.

I suspect he will discover what 99 other senators and the White House already know. There is no reasonable legislation on immigration or infrastructure (with a plan to pay for it that doesn’t hit middle- and lower-income Americans) that can attract 10 Republican votes.

Were there 50 Democrats who could have supported the puny $650 billion counteroffer that 10 Republicans put forth on the American Rescue Plan? I doubt there were five.

What about a simple reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, basic protections for early and absentee voting, independent redistricting and paper backups that can be audited? Maybe there are a handful of Republicans who might sign on (assuming you could find Democrats willing to narrow voting rights reform so dramatically).

Manchin has had the luxury of hiding behind the filibuster, avoiding tough votes and posing as the moderate voice of reason. Instead, he should be coaxed from the fog of obfuscation he generates and go find the compromise he insists is there. If not, he should be compelled to tell us if he wants to give up on infrastructure, voting rights and more to preserve the filibuster.

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