Nick Stehle, Just this once, Senate Democrats assure the American public, they will attempt to suspend the use of the filibuster in hopes of passing legislation aimed at dismantling new state voting integrity laws. There is nothing sincere about such an assurance, of course. The only circumstances under which this Machiavellian majority would not vote to once again suspend the filibuster is if Republicans regained the majority and the filibuster becomes useful in thwarting their agenda once more.
Fortunately, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is signaling that he has enough courage to say “no” to his own party by refusing to indulge in sleaze. “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,” Manchin wrote to home-state voters in The Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Democrats savagely attacked Manchin for these comments, with Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) tweeting, “Join us in saving lives or get out of our way.” Manchin has already faced pressure from party leadership to get rid of the filibuster, including criticism from President Biden. Many now argue Manchin should temporarily weaken the filibuster to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a piece of legislation the senator has already endorsed.
A one-time suspension of the filibuster might seem to be a good solution, but it opens the door to future abuses. If Manchin were to cave even once, there is no reason to think he wouldn’t do so again.
A strong filibuster ensures one party can’t sweep into power with a narrow majority and make broad changes without bipartisan support. Without the filibuster, Republicans could have passed any bill they wanted in 2017, and Democrats could do the same now. We would be trapped in a cycle of one side passing a stream of highly partisan bills, only to see those changes reversed when the other side inevitably regained control.
Four years ago, Democrats supported the filibuster, with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) saying on the Senate floor, “Without the 60-vote for legislation, the Senate becomes a majoritarian institution like the House, much more subject to the winds of short-term electoral change.” But that was then. When he became the powerful Senate Majority Leader, his position conveniently changed overnight.
Manchin shouldn’t give in to his party but must stand strong against the cynical opportunism of many Democrats. Polling shows that 52 percent of West Virginians support the filibuster, while only 32 percent want to see it eliminated. The senator often claims that he will vote the way the people of West Virginia want no matter what, and the current fight over the filibuster will be the most important test of his convictions yet.
Democrats want to blow up the filibuster in order to pass The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a hyper-partisan effort to control elections. The bill would require certain states and jurisdictions to clear any election law changes with the Department of Justice. In 2013, the Supreme Court threw out pre-clearance because it hadn’t been modernized and was punishing states for the sins of their grandfathers.
If Democrats get their way, bureaucrats will have the final say over whether a state can require a voter ID, eliminate polling places, and many other similar changes. This bill is a backdoor way to implement an unpopular agenda over the cries of the many Americans who believe it should be easy to vote yet much more difficult for political operatives to engage in unethical electioneering.
Right now, the only Republican senator who has expressed support for this bill is Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). It is extremely unlikely that nine other Republicans join her and override the filibuster.
Without Republican support, Manchin will face massive pressure from the media and fellow Democrats to suspend the filibuster. The senator must stay true to his word and continue opposing the excesses and extremism of the Democrat party from within.
Nick Stehle is the vice president of communications at the Foundation for Government Accountability.