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Transcript: Senator Joe Manchin on "Face the Nation," June 6, 2021

Manchin says he'll vote against Democratic elections bill
Manchin says he'll vote against Democratic elections bill, defends stance on filibuster 06:43

The following is a transcript of an interview with Senator Joe Manchin that aired Sunday, June 6, 2021, on "Face the Nation."

JOHN DICKERSON: We turn now to Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Good morning, Senator.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Good morning, JOHN, how are you?

JOHN DICKERSON: Doing all right this morning. A lot of Democrats say that you are standing in the way of their priorities and one of them appears to be the president. He said earlier this week in Tulsa, talking about the frustration of getting things passed, he said "two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends." Depending on how you see it, he was either being honest about the limitations on what he can get done or he's saying you're standing in the way of his agenda.

SEN. MANCHIN: Well, I think that was taken out of context, JOHN. The president knows how the Senate works better than probably any senator sitting today, or as well as any senator sitting anything today. He understands we're a deliberate body because we're supposed to be a deliberate body to cool things off that come from the House. That's what we're doing. We're looking every way we can to bring this country together and unite the country. That's what I'm doing. And I think anybody, whether it be a Democrat or Republican, that's sitting today in the Senate know who- knows who I am. And I've always been about bipartisanship. I've always tried to work in a bipartisan way and I've voted in a bipartisan way in the last 10 years of the Senate. So I'm doing what I have always done. Let's unite this country. We don't need to be divided any further.

JOHN DICKERSON: What the- what the White House would say is on an issue, let's say, infrastructure, which is key to the president's economic agenda. What they would say is there's a way to do this with Democrats alone. It's the same method that was used to pass President Trump's tax cut. But you won't agree to do that. And since you won't agree to do that, it takes all of the leverage away from the White House. Now in order to pass an infrastructure package that requires 60 votes to get past a filibuster. So it's not just that you're- you want bipartisanship. They would argue what you're doing is basically putting all the negotiating leverage in the hands of those 10 Republicans that would be needed for the president to pass anything.

SEN. MANCHIN: I don't think that's the case at all, JOHN. We need to work within the framework of what we have. There is ways that we can, you know, move forward. Let me say this. There's been seven brave Republicans that have spoken out. They have voted, whether it be impeachment or the wrongdoings of the president, whether it be for a commission. We have to continue to keep striving to make sure that we can get to that 10. And that's why we're called the deliberate body. We keep working towards that goal. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, I guess I- let's focus on those on those seven, because the argument is that the Senate has changed so much that the institution Joe Biden knew when he started in the 70s just doesn't exist and that your desire for bipartisanship is a part of an older Senate. And people might use in furtherance of that argument a quote from you. You talked about the Republicans who voted against a January 6th commission. You said they were "choosing to put politics in political elections above the health of our democracy." You called it "unconscionable" and you said it's "a betrayal of the oath we each take." Leader Biden excuse me, Leader McConnell has said he's focused 100% on blocking the Biden agenda. So the argument would be, if that's their position, what gives you any hope that they're ever going to come over to anything that President Biden wants?

SEN. MANCHIN: Well, I think that my Republican friends and colleagues see the deadlock also. This is not something they desire or wish. Why they haven't been able to break from- from Leader McConnell, the minority leader, today, it's-  they're going to have to- to dig deep into their soul and the oath that we take and why we're there. I can say this, that I will commend Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer for agreeing in a- in a commission that was truly, absolutely more bipartisan than anything I've ever seen. And they did that in the spirit of trying to get Republicans to vote. You can say well that failed, so we give up. I don't think you give up on the first try just because you fail on something that you know you did right. And I'm thinking that there's Republicans that know that the concessions were made was the right thing to do to try to start healing our country. We can't heal and unite this country if we don't know for sure what divided this country. And to have an insurrection that most every Democrat and Republican sat there together to watch what's happening from the inside of that Capitol should have been enough of an alarm of saying this is the first time in the history of our country anything, anything coming close to this, even the civil war.-- 

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about--

SEN. MANCHIN: -- the- the form of government that we have was in broach. 

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about voting rights, which is another issue. You have an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette today. Again, it's an issue you want bipartisanship on. When you talk about deliberation and the Senate slow moving being one of its great functions, Democrats would say while you're waiting for bipartisanship, what's happening in the states is three hundred or so bills promoted by Republicans to limit voting rights, changes in the ability to overturn elections if Democrats win. They say you can't wait while that's happening in the states for voting rights to pass by a bipartisan margin in the Senate.

SEN. MANCHIN: Well, JOHN, we have two bills before us, OK? We have the Voting Rights Act, which has passed over five times in our history here since 1965 in the most bipartisan way. And now we name it appropriately, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We can expand that to all 50 states. We can do so much more with that. And it's starting out to be bipartisan. I have Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska signed on in a bipartisan way and we can work on that one, which truly does protect the voting rights.

JOHN DICKERSON: But I guess, Senator,--

SEN. MANCHIN: The For the People Act is much greater--

JOHN DICKERSON: If I could just interrupt, you know politics and how it works. Why would Republicans, when they're making all these gains in the statehouses and achieving their goals in the states, why would they vote for a bill someday in the Senate that's going to take away all the things they're achieving right now in those statehouses?

SEN. MANCHIN: JOHN, they achieved what they've achieved before they won- thinking they had to make changes. Why in the world would they want to make changes that basically subvert- because I can tell you what goes around, comes around. It could be more damaging to them too. The bottom line is the fundamental purpose of- of our democracy is the freedom of our elections. If we can't come to an agreement on that, God help us, JOHN. And someone's got to fight for this. And we've got to say, listen, the divided country that we're in today, the insurrection that we saw on January the 6th, if we don't try to heal that, if we don't make every effort and go beyond the call of duty, then what are we and who are we? We've been known to go around the world and promote democracy and observe other elections. What kind of credibility do you think we have in doing that today? So I'm going to fight for this and I think the Republicans will fight for this and understand we must come together on a voting rights bill in a bipartisan way. You can't divide our country further by thinking you've given leeway to one or the other.


SEN. MANCHIN: And if they think they're going to win by subverting and oppressing people from voting, they're going to lose. I assure you they will lose.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Senator Manchin, the sands have run through the hourglass. We're out of time. Thanks so much for being with us. FACE THE NATION will be back in a minute. Just stay with us.

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