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Tag: filibuster reform

In Leaked Tape, Manchin Says What He Really Thinks About Filibuster

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a private call on Monday that was obtained by The Intercept, Joe Manchin (D-WV) talked to major political donors during a meeting organized by the group No Labels, which The Intercept describes as a big money operation co-founded by former Sen. Joe Lieberman "that funnels high-net-worth donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans."

Interestingly, Manchin seemed open to filibuster reform -- a private stance that contradicts his public one.

"The call included several billionaire investors and corporate executives, among them Louis Bacon, chief executive of Moore Capital Management; Kenneth D. Tuchman, founder of global outsourcing company TeleTech; and Howard Marks, the head of Oaktree Capital, one of the largest private equity firms in the country," write The Intercept's Lee Fang and Ryan Grim. "The Zoom participant log included a dial-in from Tudor Investment Corporation, the hedge fund founded by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones. Also present was a roster of heavy-hitting political influencers, including Republican consultant Ron Christie and Lieberman, who serves as a representative of No Labels and now advises corporate interests."

Manchin told the meeting's attendees that he needed help getting Republicans to vote in favor of a January 6 commission in order to strip the "far left" of their best argument against the filibuster.

With regard to Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt, Manchin said, "Roy Blunt is a great, just a good friend of mine, a great guy."

"Roy is retiring. If some of you all who might be working with Roy in his next life could tell him, that'd be nice and it'd help our country," Manchin continued. "That would be very good to get him to change his vote. And we're going to have another vote on this thing. That'll give me one more shot at it."

Read the full report over at The Intercept.

In West Virginia, Koch Network Pushes Manchin To Oppose Voting Rights

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Prominent Black leaders took their case for restoring voting rights and passing S. 1, the For the People Act, directly to Sen. Joe Manchin Tuesday morning. NAACP President Derrick Johnson and other Black leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton and the heads of the National Urban League, the National Council of Negro Women, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights tried to convince the obstinate West Virginia Democrat that there's more at stake here than his ego.

"The right to vote is under attack," Johnson said in a statement before the meeting. "We must do everything we can to protect the American people's sacred right to participate in the democratic process. Our vote is our voice, and we will not be silenced." In addition to this full-court and direct press to try to budge Manchin, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the leader of the Poor People's Campaign, is going to lead a "Moral March on Manchin" next week in West Virginia as well as a "nonviolent direct action" targeting Manchin in Washington.

That meeting did not move Manchin. "I don't think anybody changed positions on [S. 1]," he told reporters afterward. It was a "constructive conversation," and "just an excellent meeting," and he is "very much concerned about our democracy." But he's not going to listen to these people who've devoted their entire professional and personal lives to advancing democracy because he's Joe Manchin and knows what's best. Also, he's got the Koch network on his side. They're who he really seems to be listening to.

The Koch network is doing him a real solid right now by running ads in West Virginia, and "specifically calls on its grassroots supporters to push Manchin, a conservative Democrat, to be against some of his party's legislative priorities."

They've tailored their effort to Manchin, with an Americans for Prosperity (AFP) website they're calling "West Virginia Values," where they tell people to email Manchin and urge him to "to be The Voice West Virginia Needs In D.C.—Reject Washington's Partisan Agenda." It's almost like they're ghost-writing Manchin's statements about partisanship. They're sure going all out to make sure they're Manchin's best friends.

"Sen. Manchin has long blazed his own path, and on this issue, we agree: Extreme partisanship gets in the way of finding positive solutions," Lo Isidro, a spokesman for AFP, told CNBC. "Unfortunately, this bill [S. 1] and the tactics some are using to pass it would make it harder to work together—chilling debate, worsening partisanship, and setting up a false choice between voting rights and free speech." All hail the conquering trailblazer Joe Manchin.

Who's happy to repay the favor by calling the Kochs (checks notes) "job creators." No, really—he's claimed that in the past. "People want jobs. You don't beat up people. I mean, I don't agree with their politics or philosophically, [but he actually does] but, you know, they're Americans, they're doing—paying their taxes. […] They're not breaking the law. They're providing jobs."

Speaking of Manchin and ego, he stepped in it when he published that opinion piece in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, when he declared that he would not support S. 1, the For the People Act to restore voting rights and in addition would never vote to eliminate the filibuster. The Hill reports that "there appeared to be no heads up to the White House or key Democratic leaders that it was coming. And it was widely seen as an abrasive move." It was absolutely an abrasive move, and he did himself no favors with it among his colleagues or with President Joe Biden. It's the kind of arrogance that will make colleagues disinclined to help him out on his other legislative efforts. It makes him no friends, that's for sure.

He's also stretching the bounds of his friendship with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who he put on the spot when he declared that the two of them could get the John Lewis Voting Rights Act—which has not yet passed in the House this session—through the Senate. Right now Murkowski is the only Republican to endorse it. Asked if it was possible the two of them could find 10 Republicans to support it, she told NBC: "I don't know. I don't know. It's a challenging one. I think we just have to be honest with it. You've got to find an awful lot of Republicans to join us on this."

Even Murkowski's partner in "moderation," Susan Collins, won't publicly endorse the bill. Her office did not respond to NBC's request for comment. Sen. John Cornyn did comment to say he would talk to fellow Republicans to tank the bill. "It is basically doing through the back door what Democrats are trying to do through the front door on S.1 and H.R.1 [the For the People Act]," he said. "What I don't want to happen is if S.1 doesn't make it because people like Sen. Manchin are opposed to it that people say, 'Well, this is kind of a lesser included provision.' It's just as big of a problem as S.1." Asked if there were 10 Republicans who would support it, he said, "I hope not."

It would be remiss of me not to shout out to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema here now that Cornyn has exposed himself. The last we saw of Sinema was her little trip to the border with Cornyn, where she refused to explain why she blew off the Senate vote on the Jan. 6 commission, and gave an absolutely ignorant and ridiculous defense of keeping the filibuster. Listening to Manchin and Sinema talk on this makes it horrifyingly apparent that neither of them has bothered to read the extensive histories that we've all been shoving at them of the filibuster as a Jim Crow relic.

Manchin and Sinema both seem to be as incapable of being shamed as McConnell, so how a breakthrough is going to be made here isn't clear. But at this point, it's probably going to have to involve threats because they're certainly not going to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing for our democracy.

Why Manchin Is So Wrong On Voting Rights

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia officially announced in an op-ed Sunday that he would vote against the For the People Act, infuriating progressive critics who view the bill as a crucial tool for countering the Republican Party's anti-democratic tactics.

But Manchin's announcement wasn't particularly surprising, as he has repeatedly signaled that he was not fully supportive of the bill and prefers the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a more modest proposal. Even more critically, though, he has insisted that he doesn't want to end the filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 votes to pass a bill, which would've doomed the For the People Act whether Manchin supported it or not. No Republican senators support the bill, and at least 10 would be needed for join all 50 Democrats to pass it into law under the current filibuster rule.

It wasn't just Manchin's opposition to the For the People Act that infuriated his critics, though. The particular arguments he gave struck many as weak, condescending, and hypocritical.

He insisted that any voting rights legislation that will pass must be bipartisan. He warned: "Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won't instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it."

But he refused to answer the simple and natural question that this demanded raises: What if congressional Republicans refuse to support any voting rights legislation?

He wrote:

I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster. For as long as I have the privilege of being your U.S. senator, I will fight to represent the people of West Virginia, to seek bipartisan compromise no matter how difficult and to develop the political bonds that end divisions and help unite the country we love.
American democracy is something special, it is bigger than one party, or the tweet-filled partisan attack politics of the moment. It is my sincere hope that all of us, especially those who are privileged to serve, remember our responsibility to do more to unite this country before it is too late.

But he didn't acknowledge that "partisan voting legislation" is already being passed across the country. Republicans are rewriting the voting rules in state legislatures where they have total control, redesigning the process to fit their own partisan purposes. They hope to make it much easier for their own party to win control, and there are even indications that their policies could make it easier for Republicans to steal elections if they don't win. And Republicans are also poised to redraw congressional districts across the country to increase their advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives to be even greater than it already is, further making Congress even less representative and less democratic than it already is.

By blocking any effort from Democrats in Congress to reform voting rights, Manchin is guaranteeing that these partisan efforts by Republicans at the state level to reshape our elections to fit their desires will largely succeed. He says any federal legislation to reform voting rights must be bipartisan, but why would Senate or House Republicans do anything to weaken the advantage they have in control of state governments? Instead of insisting on bipartisanship, what Manchin is really insisting on is unilateral surrender by the Democratic Party. And if the GOP uses the opportunity to entrench their power, it may be a long time before Democrats can ever get it back.

And Manchin's demands are patently absurd on their face. For example, he wrote:

Democrats in Congress have proposed a sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act. This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support. Why? Are the very Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump because of actions that led to an attack on our democracy unwilling to support actions to strengthen our democracy? Are these same senators, whom many in my party applauded for their courage, now threats to the very democracy we seek to protect?

There are seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump because he inspired an attack on the U.S. Capitol to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. Manchin believes that this suggests they are willing to "strengthen our democracy" — but there's no reason to think this is true. Opposing Trump's brazen abuse of power and literal threat to the lives of U.S. lawmakers doesn't suggest that those Republicans don't also support restricting democracy in various ways or even even finding less violent ways to overturn elections. Many Republicans are happy to restrict democracy, even if they think Trump went too far. And Manchin and the Democrats weren't even able to convince all seven of those Republicans to support a commission to study the insurrection, further demonstrating the fact that their votes to convict didn't show a lasting good faith commitment to democracy.

Even still, had all seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump supported a bipartisan voting rights bill, that wouldn't be enough to pass under Manchin's demand to keep the filibuster. Manchin's standard requires at least 10 Republicans support any bill — which means he's insisting that Democrats let Republicans who voted to let Trump get away with the insurrection have a veto over voting rights laws.

Manchin promoted the John Lewis bill as an alternative to the For the People Act, touting it as "bipartisan." But he can only name one Republican senator who has come out in support of the bill — Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. No other Republican seems interested, and even Murkowski's interest appears tepid. And there's no sign that she or Manchin is doing the hard work to get nine other Republicans to vote in favor of the bill so it could actually pass in the face of a filibuster.

As Fox News' Chris Wallace pointed out on Sunday, Manchin has actually made the job of getting bipartisan agreement on a voting rights bill much harder by coming out firmly against reforming the filibuster. If he left open the possibility that he might support eliminating it were bipartisan negotiations to fail, Republicans would have more of an incentive to actually agree to a deal.

Since Manchin has taken filibuster reform off the table, though, Republicans know exactly what will happen at the federal level on voting rights if they refuse to play ball: nothing. At the state level, Republican legislatures will have free rein. Manchin is guaranteeing more partisanship in voting rights law, not less.

Senate Democrats Must Kill The Filibuster Before It Kills Democracy

Have Americans still got the guts for democracy? In light of recent events in Washington, you'd have to say it's doubtful.

Last week the Senate voted 54-35 to establish an independent commission to investigate the seditious January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol—the most violent attack there since the War of 1812. The House had previously approved the measure 252-175.

If the Senate vote were a football score, you'd call a nineteen point win decisive. And yet, the measure failed to survive a Republican filibuster, a quaint Senate rule requiring a supermajority of sixty votes to become law.

Created during racial segregation and used for decades to block civil rights reforms, the filibuster is found nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. It's neither a law nor a Supreme Court ruling. It's simply a Senate custom—and an openly un-democratic one—which could be eliminated tomorrow by a simple majority vote.

The Senate is a conservative institution by definition. It gives far more power and influence to small rural states than to large, metropolitan ones where most people live. Citizens of Wyoming, population 573,000, for example, have 70 times the influence in the U.S. Senate as citizens of California, population 39.5 million.

Only major constitutional surgery can change that, so it's never going to happen. No point even talking about it.

Add the filibuster, however, and it's a recipe for legislative paralysis: to wit, a government that refuses to defend itself against violent insurrection because it might hurt Citizen Trump's feelings.

Or might put Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in a tight spot. Not to mention Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). These two heroes spoke out decisively in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 coup attempt, but now the wind has changed and they're busily hunting cover.

"If you can't get a Republican to support a nonpartisan analysis of why the Capitol was attacked for the first time since the War of 1812, then what are you holding out hope for?" asks Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

What, indeed?

Former Obama White House aide David Plouffe put it even more bluntly on Twitter: "Democracy dying so the filibuster can live would seem a terrible way for this experiment to end."

Polls have shown that a clear majority of Americans support the establishment of a January 6 Commission by 56 to 30 percent. Even 28 percent of Republicans would be interested in finding out, for example, how many of those "tours" given by right-wing congressmen on January 5 consisted of pre-riot reconnaissance? Or who gave the "stand down" order preventing the National Guard from arriving on time, and why?

Just how organized was the conspiracy that resulted in "Proud Boys" running through the halls of Congress chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" while the vice-president's security team hustled him into hiding?

Did the Proud Boys keep it a secret from their pal Roger Stone? Did he neglect to tell his pal, Donald J. Trump?
Inquiring minds want to know.

Senate Republicans, not so much.

Look, under current circumstances, 54-35 equates to a thunderous majority. Filibuster, however, equates with doing nothing, and with political cowardice.

Indeed, the filibuster is arguably more responsible than anything else for the disdain with which most Americans view Congress's congenital inability to act. That's certainly how Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) sees it.

"If they block the January 6 commission, we will have to abolish the filibuster," Markey told the Washington Post. "If the Republicans block climate action, we will have to abolish the filibuster. If Republicans block voting rights, we'll have to abolish the filibuster. If Republicans block gun control legislation, we will have to abolish the filibuster. So I think that it's just continuing to move towards the inevitability of the unavoidable necessity of repealing the filibuster."

And yet preserving the filibuster is seemingly more important to certain "moderate" Democrats—specifically Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ)—than all of those things. See, something else the filibuster does is to enhance the power and visibility of individual Senators--one reason President Joe Biden, a 30-year Senate veteran, is himself iffy about abolition.

The argument is that the 60-vote Senate requirement somehow fosters bipartisanship, although nobody ever says how. Mostly it now fosters Manchin's televised imitations of Maine's GOP Sen. Susan Collins—routinely regretting this and deploring that, before falling quietly in line. (In fairness, Manchin and Collins both voted for the January 6 commission.)

On the day after voting to drop the filibuster, Manchin would return to being just another of 50 Democratic senators. So there's that.

Others argue that should Republicans re-take the Senate come 2022, Democrats could come to regret killing the filibuster. Could be, although does anybody think the GOP won't ditch the rule whenever it's convenient?

In the foreseeable future, there's no chance of either party securing a sixty-vote majority. The choice is between majority rule and paralysis.

#EndorseThis: Colbert Unleashes On 'Idiot' Mitch McConnell And Numbskull Rioters

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican known affectionately as Moscow Mitch, is clinging desperately to power. He's making threats about "scorched earth" if Democrats change Senate rules to get rid of the filibuster, long a favorite tool to frustrate progress.

McConnell's whining infuriated Stephen Colbert, who called him an "idiot" for not recognizing that the filibuster keeps the Senate from doing anything at all. Plus Stephen reviews the latest FBI busts of morons who invaded the Capitol and then posted incriminating photos of themselves on social media.

Passionate and hilarious. Just click and enjoy!

McConnell Flips Over Filibuster, Aides Reveal More About Gov. Cuomo's Bad Behavior www.youtube.com

Democrats Can Save Democracy Or Preserve The Filibuster — Not Both

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A lie repeated often enough doesn't become truth, it gets codified by Republican state legislatures. That's the case with the Big Lie, that voter fraud stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump. Whether or not they actually believe it, Republican lawmakers across the country are acting on it, introducing more than 250 bills in 43 states making it harder for people to vote. That's despite the fact that the most litigated presidential election in history exposed no fraud at all. Trump's legal team couldn't prove it in court after court.

As of now, just three states—Iowa, Arkansas, and Utah—have enacted new voter suppression laws, but the wave of new state laws is likely just cresting. There's a remedy: federal action. It can only be applied, however, with Senate reform of the filibuster. As long as Republicans see that their only hope of ever winning elections again is to limit the voting population, to gerrymander and silo Democratic voters into nonexistence, and to cheat, Republican senators are not going to allow federal legislation to pass. There might be one or two who don't want to be lumped in with the rest of the white supremacists, but there won't be 10 of them willing to pass either the For the People Act, the vast elections reform bill passed in the House this month, or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

We are facing what one voting rights activist calls "a once-in-a-generation moment." Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote, told The New York Times, "We either are going to see one of the most massive rollbacks of our democracy in generations, or we have an opportunity to say: 'No, that is not what America stands for. We are going to strengthen democracy and make sure everyone has an equal voice.'"

Which is precisely what Republican state legislatures are fighting, with states about ready to tip blue at the fore. Arizona and Pennsylvania—home to some of the most intense Big Lie litigation—have the most voter suppression legislation under consideration now. It's Georgia, though, that's becoming the epicenter for the fight. The state's flip to electing Joe Biden president and Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock as its two senators, flipping the U.S. Senate to the Democrats in the offing, has resulted in omnibus voter suppression bills in both the state House and Senate. Earlier this month, the House passed legislation to restrict in-person voting; require voter ID for absentee ballot requests; limit absentee ballot drop boxes and require the boxes be inside buildings and thus inaccessible when the buildings close; limit weekend early voting; shorten the absentee voting period; and make giving people waiting in line to vote food or drink a misdemeanor. Last week, the Senate passed S.B. 241, 29-20 legislation that ends no-excuse absentee voting; restricts it to disabled people and people over 65 or who can provide they won't be home on Election Day; and requires ID for absentee ballot requests.

That ID requirement is just one of a litany of barriers for people of color. "That is a burden for people, particularly working folks and poor folks," LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Any time there are barriers placed on people who are already at an economic disadvantage, what you're going to see is a drop-off in voting." Which is precisely what Republicans intend.

Advocacy groups are now ramping up action to get Georgia's largest national corporations—among them Coca-Cola, UPS, and Delta Airlines—to get involved by stopping their donations to Republican legislators and to speak out. "They spent most of Black History Month peppering us with Martin Luther King quotes, but now that Blacks' future is in jeopardy, they're silent," Nsé Ufot, the chief executive of one participant, the New Georgia Project, said. "We're using digital ads, billboards, direct action at warehouses and call centers—we're serious. This is urgent."

Many of those same corporations succeeded in 2016 in a pressure campaign that resulted in then-Gov. Nathan Deal's veto of an anti-LGBTQ "religious liberty" bill.

That's one of the strategies for fighting the Georgia bills. But there has to be a national strategy for all the other states, one that addresses what's happening in that state and all the others. "Well, first of all, I do absolutely agree that it's racist," Georgia grassroots leader Stacey Abrams told CNN's Jake Tapper Sunday.

"It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie," Abrams said. "We know that the only thing that precipitated these changes, it's not that there was the question of security." In another interview on Meet the Press Abrams argued for her proposal that Senate Democrats carve out "an exemption to the filibuster for the purposes of protecting our democracy," for passing voting rights and election legislation. "Look, I understand wanting to protect the prerequisites of an institution. I served as minority leader for seven years," Abrams continued.

But I also understand that there were times where we had to look at the fundamentals of our processes and do what was right. And we know the Senate has done so to suspend the filibuster for the purposes of judicial appointments, for Cabinet appointments and for budget reconciliation. I would say protection of the fundamentals of our democracy, which we have seen bloodily debated through the January 6th insurrection, certainly counts.

She argues that the move is justified in the Constitution, which gives the Congress power "that it alone has, which is to regulate the time, place and manner of [federal] elections." Muller agrees. "It is too important an issue and we are facing too big a crisis to let an arcane procedural motion hold back the passage of this bill," she told the Times arguing that the threat to voting rights is an existential threat to democracy. Without a free and fair vote, everything else is lost.

If anyone thinks there's any chance Republicans relent for this, consider the second most likely convert (after Sen. Lisa Murkowski), Sen. Susan Collins. Her Maine colleague, independent Sen. Angus King told News Center Maine that he wasn't thrilled with the idea of getting rid of the filibuster, but "If Mitch McConnell and his caucus are going to be no, no, no, to everything, and everybody's going to be on board, then we've got to get things done for the country." Collins showed her true feeling about "bipartisanship" in response. "I would remind my dear friend Angus that the Democrats could be in the minority two years from now. And they will wish that they had not done away with the filibuster if that happens, that I can assure you."

Add threats to lying, cheating, and reimposing Jim Crow to the Republican toolbox for what they call governing.

Sen. Manchin Says Filibusters Could Be Made More 'Painful'

By Sarah N. Lynch WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Centrist Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, a pivotal vote in the U.S. Senate, on Sunday advocated making the procedural maneuver called the filibuster more "painful" to do, with Democrats concerned about Republicans obstructing President Joe Biden's legislative agenda. Some Democrats have advocated eliminating the filibuster to prevent Republicans from blocking Biden's initiatives. White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield made clear on Sunday that the president is not calling for ending the filibuster. Biden previously served in the Senate for...

McConnell Retreats From Fight Over Senate Rules

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell backed down Monday night from his fight with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, though it was unclear exactly who came out on top.

McConnell had moved to stall the chamber's organizing resolution, which would allow the formation of newly constituted committees with all the new senators and with Democrats in charge. Though Schumer and McConnell agreed on the basic outlines of the power-sharing arrangement, the minority leader had held up the process over his demand that Democrats agree not to abolish or scale back the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to pass most legislation in the Senate.

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