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Senator Joe Manchin signals willingness to reform filibuster

The history of the filibuster
History and real-life implications of the filibuster 03:40

Washington — Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia indicated Sunday he is open to reforming the filibuster to allow more opportunities for Democrats to pass legislation through the Senate along party lines and without relying on Republican support.

In a series of interviews Sunday, Manchin, who wields significant power in the evenly divided Senate as a moderate willing to work across party lines, said he believes the filibuster should be made more "painful" to dissuade the minority from using it frequently. 

"If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk," Manchin said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I'm willing to look at any way we can, but I'm not willing to take away the involvement of the minority."

While the West Virginia senator said he remains opposed to abolishing the 60-vote threshold for ending debate on a motion, he floated the idea of a "talking filibuster," in which a senator must remain on the floor speaking to hold up legislation.

Manchin, too, did not rule out using the budget reconciliation process, a procedure used by the Senate to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package with a simple-majority threshold, for future legislation when bipartisan negotiations fail to yield a deal, including the sweeping elections reform package approved by the House last week.

"I'm not going to go there until my Republican friends have the ability to have their say, also," he said. "And I'm hoping they'll get involved to the point to where we have 10 of them that will work with 50 of us, or 15 of them that will work with 45 of us."

Manchin said "there's no need" for Democrats to use reconciliation "until the other process has failed."

With the Senate evenly split 50-50, leaving Vice President Kamala Harris to cast tie-breaking votes, pressure among Democrats to eliminate the filibuster has been building to make it easier to implement Mr. Biden's legislative agenda. The rule requires 10 Republicans to cross the aisle to move forward with a bill, giving the minority party power to effectively kill major pieces of legislation.

Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, have said they are against efforts to get rid of the filibuster, though a growing number of Democrats have said they are willing to do so.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Mr. Biden's "preference is not to get rid of the filibuster" and "not to make changes to the filibuster rules," and said the president believes there are numerous opportunities to work on a bipartisan basis, including on immigration reform and infrastructure.

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