Senate Republicans on Tuesday floated an election reform proposal after centrist Democrat Joe Manchin suggested changing the filibuster rules to advance a much larger voting rights bill, The Associated Press reports.
Manchin, along with Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, have been the lone Democrats backing the 60-vote threshold to vote down a filibuster so the Senate can advance legislation. Manchin on Tuesday reiterated that he does not want to see major changes to the filibuster rules but expressed openness to modest reforms.
Manchin’s comments came after he met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss the Democrats push to pass a sweeping voting rights bill in response to a slew of new voting restrictions in Republican-led states.
Schumer earlier this week vowed to hold a vote on changing filibuster rules if Republicans once again use the rule to block debate on the bill.
What does Manchin support?
"I think the filibuster needs to stay in place, any way, shape or form that we can do it," Manchin said, but said he is “optimistic” that Republicans could also support smaller changes.
Manchin floated getting rid of the 60-vote threshold to begin, but not end, debate. "That's a rule change I would think Republicans — they've been for that before," he said.
Manchin also said that bills that pass committees should be streamlined without the threat of a single senator being able to block a quick vote.
Manchin said Democrats were also discussing forcing senators to actually filibuster the bill – or talk at length to block it – rather than derail debate by merely threatening a filibuster.
Manchin said he would also support lowering the 60-vote threshold to end debate to a three-fifths of senators present threshold.
"It puts pressure on both sides," Manchin said. "I'm for three fifths, voting. ... That to me makes a lot of sense."
GOP open to election reform:
Republicans, who have vehemently opposed voting rights legislation, suddenly suggested passing a bipartisan bill to reform the Electoral Count Act, which Trump and his allies seized on to claim that Vice President Mike Pence could block the certification of President Joe Biden’s win.
“It obviously has some flaws. And it is worth, I think, discussing,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Politico.
A false reading of the law could suggest that Congress has the power to block the counting of valid votes.
“With the Electoral Count Act, as we saw last time around, there are some things there that, I think, could be corrected,” GOP Sen. John Thune told Axios.
But Democrats say it is a Republican ploy to detract from the larger voting rights push.
“The Electoral Count Act [reform] says you can rig the elections anyway you want and then we’ll count it accurately,” Schumer told Politico, adding that he has “very little hope” for a bipartisan deal. “We’ve tried for four months and got no support.”