Topline

As Democrats look for ways to move major legislation through an evenly divided Senate, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) urged his party in a Wednesday Washington Post op-ed to avoid using budget reconciliation to bypass Republicans, limiting Democrats’ options to pass a massive infrastructure package and other proposals currently lacking Republican support.

Key Facts

Manchin said there’s “no circumstance” in which he’ll help scrap or weaken the filibuster, reiterating his past support for a rule that forces most legislation to earn 60 senators’ backing, a tall order in a body divided 50-50 between the two parties.

He also appeared wary about reconciliation, a semi-obscure maneuver that allows budget-related bills to pass with just a simple majority, writing “I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate.”

The senator said Democrats should “avoid the temptation” of using reconciliation to pass major bills without any Republican votes, but Republicans need to “stop saying no.”

Crucial Quote

“We should all be alarmed at how the budget reconciliation process is being used by both parties to stifle debate around the major issues facing our country today,” Manchin wrote. “Legislating was never supposed to be easy.”

Key Background

President Joe Biden is pushing Congress to pass a $2 trillion infrastructure package and corporate tax hikes, but the Senate poses a major obstacle because Republicans have lent no support to Biden’s plans. Senate Democrats have already used budget reconciliation once this year, passing a Covid-19 relief bill in March despite no Republican votes, and the Senate’s parliamentarian says Democrats can use the maneuver at least one more time this year. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has threatened to use reconciliation again “if Republican obstruction continues.” But Manchin’s skepticism of this strategy could pose a challenge in a narrowly divided Senate.

Tangent

Biden says his infrastructure package and tax plan are both negotiable. Some Democrats have asked for changes: Manchin wants a lower corporate tax rate, and a few House Democrats want the bill to repeal a cap on federal write-offs for state and local taxes. But an agreement with Republicans appears less likely, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicting no members of his caucus will back Biden’s infrastructure push.

Further Reading

Joe Manchin: I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster (Washington Post)

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