Manchin, Sinema Remain Unmoved On Filibuster As Democrats Apply Public Pressure

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) arrives for a Senate Democrat caucus luncheon with President Joe Biden in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on January 13, 2022 in Washington, ... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) arrives for a Senate Democrat caucus luncheon with President Joe Biden in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on January 13, 2022 in Washington, DC. Biden has called on his fellow Democrats to go around Republican opposition, do away with the 60-vote threshold for advancing legislation in the Senate and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom To Vote Act, a move that seems likely to fail due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS

After a barrage of speeches, a visit from President Joe Biden and marathon meetings with their Democratic peers, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Thursday remained firmly against meaningfully reforming the filibuster. 

Sinema timed her public denunciation of filibuster reform just an hour before Biden was due to meet with the caucus on the Hill. 

“Eliminating the 60-vote threshold on a party line with the thinnest of possible majorities to pass these bills that I support will not guarantee that we prevent demagogues from winning office,” Sinema said. 

The audience for her speech from the Senate floor was almost entirely composed of Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and members of the “moderate” cohort Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME). 

“Very good, excellent speech,” Manchin told reporters of her performance on his way into the caucus meeting with Biden. He soon followed his comments up with a statement of his own reiterating his refusal to “weaken or eliminate the filibuster.” 

Inside the meeting, Biden made his pitch for the rules change to salvage voting rights legislation. Several other Democrats spoke in support of the President’s message, and many asked questions. Manchin asked Biden about the history of Senate rule changes, according to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). 

Various Democratic senators characterized the path on voting rights from here in bleak terms: “very difficult,” (Sen. Angus King (I-ME)), “challenging,” (Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)), “the odds are against this” (Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)). 

Still, many members feel strongly about holding a vote on filibuster reform, even if Manchin and Sinema doom it. 

“We need to know where we stand,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) told TPM. 

“Ultimately, we come to the Senate to vote,” Murphy said. “And there are times where having a vote regardless of the initial consequences can lead to success down the line.” 

The timing of any vote is unclear, despite Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promising one before or on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this Monday. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) has tested positive for COVID-19, leaving Democrats short a member they’d likely need just to take up the voting legislation, even before they get to the vote on the rule changes. 

In the meantime, the seemingly ill-fated Manchin and Sinema pressure campaign continues. Biden is reportedly meeting with the two at the White House Thursday night, and Murphy told reporters that the caucus just has to keep working through the weekend.

“It looks like the path forward is very difficult, particularly based upon Senator Sinema’s statement today,” King told reporters. “She believes that the risk of changing the filibuster is greater than the risk of what’s going on in the states. I hope profoundly that she’s right. I fear that she’s wrong.” 

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