Manchin gives warning on Schumer's go-it-alone strategy

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Sen. Joe Manchin gave Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer a stark warning about using a budget procedure to bypass the Senate filibuster and ram through major legislation with slim party-line votes.

“We should all be alarmed at how the budget reconciliation process is being used by both parties to stifle debate around the major issues facing our country today,” the West Virginia Democrat said in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday night. “I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate.”

Democrats used budget reconciliation, a process that allows the Senate to pass a bill with 51 votes instead of the usual 60-vote threshold required to avoid a filibuster, to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan without the support of any Republicans earlier this year.

Schumer is moving to repeat the process several more times, including for President Joe Biden’s “American Jobs Plan” infrastructure proposal.

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Previously, conventional thought indicated that the Senate could only use the budget reconciliation method for a small, limited number of times. But Schumer’s office eyed an in-the-weeds rule that could give him extra opportunities to bypass the Senate’s filibuster roadblock. The Senate parliamentarian this week gave a green light to Democrats to use that rule and get more opportunities to use reconciliation.

Manchin’s stated opposition to regularizing the use of budget reconciliation could set up a showdown between him and Schumer over future legislation.

In the op-ed, the centrist Democrat also dug in on his opposition to abolishing the filibuster.

“The filibuster is a critical tool to protecting that input and our democratic form of government. That is why I have said it before and will say it again to remove any shred of doubt: There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Manchin said. “The time has come to end these political games and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”

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Manchin has previously expressed his openness to the idea of requiring a “talking filibuster,” the Biden-endorsed idea of requiring continuous speech on the Senate floor in order to block legislation. But while he did not mention it specifically, he appeared to close the door to that kind of reform.

Another filibuster reform proposal is shifting the burden to the minority party to maintain a filibuster by requiring 41 senators to sustain it, which Manchin said he opposes.

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