A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

Time to bring back the ‘talking filibuster’? Watch Joe Manchin.

The West Virginia Democrat is leveraging his influence in the 50-50 Senate – even signaling a willingness to alter a controversial rule he supports. He says it gives the minority party a voice.

Leigh Vogel/AP
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the nomination of Rep. Debra Haaland, D-N.M., to be Secretary of the Interior on Capitol Hill in Washington Feb. 24, 2021.

Dear reader:
 When Joe Manchin talks, people listen – just like in that old E.F. Hutton ad from the 1970s. Senator Manchin is a conservative Democrat from deep red West Virginia and, in a 50-50 Senate, his party can’t afford to lose his vote. He also knows how to throw his weight around.
 So when Mr. Manchin said on “Fox News Sunday” that maybe the filibuster should be “more painful” to use, the political world took notice. He still supports the existence of the filibuster – the Senate procedure that requires a 60-vote supermajority to end debate on most bills. But perhaps, he suggested, it’s time to bring back the “talking filibuster.”
 "Maybe it has to be more painful, maybe you have to stand there. There's things we can talk about," Mr. Manchin said.
 Cue Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the Frank Capra classic from 1939 about the idealistic senator who talks for 24 hours straight to try to block corrupt legislation. There are plenty of real-life examples of “talking filibusters” from earlier eras, some not as admirable. During the Jim Crow era, Southern Democrats filibustered to block civil-rights legislation.
 Since 1975, senators haven’t had to talk nonstop to thwart a bill. They can just invoke “cloture,” thus triggering the need to find 60 votes. But in today’s polarized politics, getting to 60 feels well-nigh impossible. There are exceptions. Budget-related legislation can move through the Senate with a simple majority. That’s how the massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which passed the House today, cleared the Senate.
 But Mr. Manchin wants to make himself clear: Keep the filibuster. On Tuesday, he told Politico that he believes it forces Democrats and Republicans to work together – and gives the minority party a voice.
 “There's no way that I would vote to prevent the minority from having input into the process in the Senate,” Mr. Manchin said. “That means protecting the filibuster.”
 Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist Democrat from Arizona, also supports keeping the filibuster. So does President Joe Biden, a veteran of the Senate – but watch the White House’s language. His “preference,” press secretary Jen Psaki says, is to keep the filibuster. But she doesn't rule out reforms.
 Going forward, the bulk of President Biden’s agenda – including the sweeping voting-rights bill known as H.R. 1 – doesn’t stand a chance without ditching or changing the filibuster. Suggestions for reform abound, including these from scholar Norman Ornstein. Tuesday night, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Richard Durbin of Illinois, suggested a path to filibuster “modifications.”
 But the Democrat from West Virginia will remain at the heart of the debate. Keep an eye on him.
 Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Time to bring back the ‘talking filibuster’? Watch Joe Manchin.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today