Joe Manchin kills dreams of expanding Supreme Court, eliminating the filibuster

Democrats have a shot at Senate control, with vice president breaking ties

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III says he opposes eliminating the legislative filibuster. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III says he opposes eliminating the legislative filibuster. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 9, 2020 at 8:06pm

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III wants to make clear that he will not be the 50th vote in favor of eliminating the legislative filibuster or expanding the size of the Supreme Court in a potential 50-50 Senate.

Democrats still have a narrow path to a Senate majority if they are able to prevail in two January runoff elections in Georgia, assuming Republicans currently leading in North Carolina and Alaska win. But in a move that seems partly designed to interfere with GOP talking points about the risks of unified Democratic government, Manchin appeared Monday on Fox News to declare dead several progressive priorities.

“I commit to you tonight, and I commit to all of your viewers and everyone else that’s watching. I want to allay those fears, I want to rest those fears for you right now because when they talk about whether it be packing the courts, or ending the filibuster, I will not vote to do that,” Manchin said in the interview. “I will not vote to pack the courts … and I will not vote to end the filibuster.”

Manchin said that in his estimation, efforts to defund the police and advance “Medicare for All” lacked support among members of the Senate Democratic Conference as well.

“We’ve got to fix the Affordable Care Act,” Manchin said the evening before the Supreme Court takes up a key challenge to the health care law of a decade ago. “I think our … moderate Republicans will work with us to now repair what needs to be repaired.”

While not conceding that President Donald Trump lost, Georgia Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are appealing for support in their Senate runoff campaigns by saying they are the “last line of defense” against a parade of horrors associated with a government helmed by President-elect Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a potential Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer. Perdue and Loeffler face runoff elections on Jan. 5 against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively.

Both Ossoff and Warnock are certain to continue to face questions about their personal positions on priorities promoted by their party’s left flank, but Manchin’s commitment could turn down the heat.

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Manchin said moderates should be able to trust that he can keep his word and not give in to pressure from Schumer, citing his vote in favor of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

“If I can take that type of pressure, if I can vote for Brett Kavanaugh, the only Democrat, if I can take that type of pressure, you don’t think that I can basically justify what I’m going to be doing and how I’m going to vote, knowing that I’m sitting in the seat that Robert C. Byrd held, who wrote the rules of the Senate?” he said.

Manchin’s remarks Monday come as House Democrats are trying to figure out the best path forward after facing the unexpected prospect of a smaller majority in the next Congress and many Republicans on Capitol Hill are not yet acknowledging that Biden has been elected president.

Much to the chagrin of environmental activists, Manchin could chair the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a 50-50 Senate in which the tie goes to the Democrats, thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

“When you’re talking about basically Green New Deal and all this ‘socialism.’ That’s not who we are as a Democratic Party. It’s not how I was raised in West Virginia,” Manchin said Monday. “It’s not the Democrats I know.”