In a rebuke to the AOC wing of the Democratic Party, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said on Monday that he would not be the 50th vote in favor of nuking the filibuster and packing the Supreme Court, should Joe Biden ultimately win the presidential election.
The comments, made on Fox News, have thrown some cold water on the idea that Democrats could use Kamala Harris as a tie-breaking vote in the Senate if they pick up both of the seats in Georgia that are heading to runoff elections.
“50-50 means there’s a tie. But if one senator does not vote on the Democratic side there is no tie. … When they talk about, whether it be packing the courts or ending the filibuster, I will not vote to do that,” Manchin said.
Manchin, referring to chatter that Democrats could nix the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court, said he wanted to “rest those fears for you.”
“That won’t happen because I will not be the 50th Democrat voting to end that filibuster or to basically stack the court,” Manchin said.
Pressed if he was saying definitively that if Democratic leadership tried to use the nuclear option to nix the filibuster if he would vote against that, Manchin replied, “Absolutely. I will vote against that.”
Consider Manchin’s comments a shot across the bow of the socialist wing of the Democratic Party, which has been agitating for a potential Biden administration to take a hard left turn once in office. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that the West Virginia senator is representing a state that went solidly for Trump this year while also electing a Republican governor, senator, and three GOP members of Congress.
Manchin, who’s up for re-election in 2024, clearly has no desire to alienate voters back home, but he may also be laying the groundwork for an even bigger bombshell. A few days ago, my friend Ed Morrissey at HotAir laid out the case for Manchin flipping parties and joining the GOP caucus.
Eventually, Manchin will either have to retire or change parties to survive in his state. If he doesn’t want to retire, this is the best opportunity he will have to get something significant for the switch. Until Georgia holds its runoff election, McConnell is looking at the potential for a Kamala Harris-run Senate while he sits at 50 seats for the next two years. Flipping Manchin would cement Republican control of the Senate now, rather than hoping for at least one out of two runoff wins on January 5.
What can McConnell offer as an inducement? Manchin is ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, perhaps the most important panel to West Virginia. Lisa Murkoswki chairs that panel and she might not be happy to step aside, as Alaskans have a lot of interest in that as well, thanks to federal control over most of their state. Perhaps Murkowski would step aside, but Pat Roberts’ retirement leaves the Agriculture chair open, which might interest Manchin. Or McConnell could move Jerry Moran to Ag and have Manchin take over Veterans’ Affairs. Lamar Alexander’s retirement also leaves the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee chair open, which is stacked with progressives on the minority side.
Some Democrats are already demanding that Manchin be punished by the party for not going along with the plans to pack the Court.
Manchin doesn’t even believe in democracy. He’d rather people die of starvation & COVID than amend the Senate rules.
If he won’t support Democratic legislation he should lose his committee seats — including Appropriations & Energy.
Being a Democrat should mean something. https://t.co/OTEJZFkxLc
— Mike Siegel (@SiegelForTexas) November 10, 2020
Mike Seigel lost his race for Congress in the 10th District of Texas this year, so he’s not exactly in a position to demand anything of Manchin, but his attitude is indicative of the mood of the AOC wing of the party. What Seigel apparently doesn’t realize is that if Democrats strip Manchin of his committee assignments, he could easily become a committee chairman by becoming a member of the GOP, ensuring their legislative majority for at least two years.
Joe Manchin hasn’t been much of a friend to the Second Amendment since 2013, when he partnered with Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey to offer up a universal background check bill in the Senate. In 2018, Manchin received a “D” grade from the NRA, but if he does end up blocking the packing of the Supreme Court and casts a deciding vote against removing the 60-vote hurdle for legislation to pass the Senate, he would definitely undo at least some of the damage done to his relationship with gun owners.
Of course if either Georgia Republican wins their runoff election in early January, then Manchin’s vote wouldn’t be necessary to keep the Supreme Court at nine justices and keep Joe Biden’s anti-gun legislation bottled up in committee.
However, we don’t know if Manchin will ultimately decide to switch parties or even keep his word about not voting to remove the filibuster. For that reason alone the Georgia runoffs are going to be critically important in ensuring that Biden’s plans to ban and “buy back” semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines, repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, ban the online sale of ammunition and gun parts, and more remain stuck in legislative limbo instead of passing out of Congress by the slimmest of majorities.