With virus aid in sight, Democrats debate filibuster changes

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2021, file photo, reporters question Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., as he arrives for votes on President Joe Biden's cabinet nominees, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON – With President Joe Biden on the verge of his first big legislative victory, a key moderate Democrat said Sunday he's open to changing Senate rules that could allow for more party-line votes to push through other parts of the White House’s agenda such as voting rights.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin stressed that he wants to keep the procedural hurdle known as the filibuster, saying major legislation should always have significant input from the minority party. But he noted there are other ways to change the rules that now effectively require 60 votes for most legislation. One example: the “talking filibuster,” which requires senators to slow a bill by holding the floor, but then grants an “up or down” simple majority vote if they give up.

“The filibuster should be painful, it really should be painful and we’ve made it more comfortable over the years,” Manchin said. “Maybe it has to be more painful.”

“If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk,” Manchin added. “I’m willing to look at any way we can, but I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.”

Democrats are beginning to look to their next legislative priorities after an early signature win for Biden on Saturday, with the Senate approving a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan on a party-line 50-49 vote.

Final passage is expected Tuesday in the House if leaders can hold the support of progressives frustrated that the Senate narrowed unemployment benefits and stripped out an increase to the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Over the weekend, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, representing around 100 House liberals, called the Senate’s weakening of some provisions “bad policy and bad politics." But Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., also characterized the changes as “relatively minor concessions” and emphasized the bill retained its “core bold, progressive elements.”

Biden says he would sign the measure immediately if the House passed it. The legislation would allow many Americans to receive $1,400 in direct checks from the government this month.