If such a broad range of Democrats backs this set of more modest reforms championed by Manchin himself, and Republicans uniformly oppose it, will this make Manchin more willing to entertain ending the filibuster to pass it?
Probably not. But Manchin’s support for keeping the filibuster will grow harder to justify.
On Tuesday, the Senate is set to vote on whether to hold debate on the Democrats’ big push for voting rights reform. Republicans are certain to filibuster the measure — indeed, it’s likely that zero GOP senators will vote for cloture — blocking it at the outset.
At that point, does the reform push simply die? Punchbowl News is now reporting that this is the likely endgame.
“Democrats won’t get cloture and the bill will stall,” Punchbowl notes, adding that after this, calls for eliminating the filibuster will grow, but Manchin (and several other moderates) will continue to oppose that. Then it’s game over.
This does seem like the most probable outcome. But there are important nuances that could make a difference in how this plays out.
How this could unfold
First, a big factor will be whether Manchin votes to proceed to debate. He likely will, according to Punchbowl, but if so, that opens up other possibilities.
Manchin opposes the For the People Act — the sweeping voting rights legislation that passed the House — but he has outlined his own compromise bill. It’s worthy of progressive support: It does include a mild form of voter ID, but it also mandates early voting, curbs partisan gerrymandering and restores federal preclearance for new voting rules, all crucial reforms.
What’s important here is that Tuesday’s vote is merely a vote to proceed to debate. That means Manchin can vote yes without backing the For the People Act. Instead, he’d be voting to move to the next procedural step, where his own proposal would also be debated.
In other words, if and when Republicans filibuster this, they will be blocking the Senate from even debating any reforms to protect democracy, including Manchin’s own compromise, which was itself an effort to find common ground with Republicans.
But if Manchin gets to yes on this, it will underscore that 50 Democrats are there to support something to protect democracy that looks like Manchin’s proposal. And Republicans would be thwarting any and all action along starkly partisan lines, even as they are passing an unprecedented wave of voter suppression and anti-majoritarian measures in many states — and doing so almost exclusively on partisan lines themselves.
At that point, the question would then become whether that stark reality makes Manchin more open to modifying or ending the filibuster, even if it’s just to debate and then pass something defending voting rights and democracy.
White House is supportive of Manchin’s efforts
The next 48 hours are crucial, which is why the White House weighing in favorably on Manchin’s efforts is important. A source familiar with the White House’s thinking says we’ll be hearing more along these lines.
“Manchin’s work to find a way forward was received well in the West Wing,” the source tells me. “The president appreciates that Sen. Manchin is trying to achieve forward motion on one of our highest priorities in the face of this rash of anti-voter laws.”
“You can expect the administration to give Sen. Manchin real credit for this,” the source continues.
This comes after President Biden declared last week that “the sacred right to vote remains under attack” from various anti-democracy tactics, and that this threatens “our very democracy” and “the promise of America.”
And so we’re now at the point when a very broad coalition of Democrats — from Abrams to Biden to Manchin — supports taking concrete steps to defend voting rights and democracy from that attack.
It’s still not clear whether Biden will ultimately prod Democrats to end the filibuster to pass something along these lines, and NBC News reports that a number of moderate Democrats also oppose doing this. But here’s the reality: If Manchin supported ending it to pass voting protections, the whole caucus would almost certainly follow.
Yet the most likely scenario still remains that in the end, Manchin won’t support ending the filibuster, on his own stated grounds that protecting democracy must happen on a bipartisan basis for the sake of democracy itself. Which would doom the whole effort.
If so, let’s be clear on what that would mean: Requiring bipartisan support as the unalterable precondition for acting in defense of democracy cedes control over its future to the increasingly anti-democracy party. That doesn’t seem like a tenable position, does it?