April 03, 2019

Manchin Only Senator to Vote Against Nuclear Option in 2013, 2017 and Today

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), spoke on the Senate floor after Republican Leaders moved once again to use the “nuclear option” to limit the power of individual Senators to object to nominations that impact their states.  

The filibuster is a key tool used by Senators to fight for their constituents’ interests. Senator Manchin is the only member of the Senate – Republican or Democrat – who has consistently voted against efforts to use the so called “nuclear option” to change the rules of the Senate by making it easier to approve nominations with a simple majority vote instead of the 60 vote supermajority previously required.

Senator Manchin said, in part: “For the life of me, I can’t figure out how anyone who voted for this will explain it when they go home. How do you look the people who elected you in the eye and say, ‘I gave up my individual power to represent you?’ You can say it was because of obstruction like Democrats did in 2013 and the Republicans are doing today, but it isn’t. This move is a betrayal of the people we represent, and everyone in this body is complicit.”

“For hundreds of years, we managed to overcome obstruction and preserve our Founder’s vision for the Senate. But for the last 6 years members on both sides of the aisle have decided it’s no longer possible. This abdication of our power and our responsibility is nothing more than weakness in the face of partisanship. My colleagues need to stand up to their leaders, protect their power as Senators, as representatives for their state, and protect the institution of the Senate. Isn’t that hard, and I know because I’ve done it.

“The solution to obstruction isn’t ruining the Senate. It’s outreach. It’s compromise. It’s finding solutions that make a bunch of people on the far left and the far right mad. Until we’re willing to do that hard work, this institution is going to get worse. I’ve never seen something broken that couldn’t be fixed. I hope we come to our senses, act as Americans and change.”

To watch his full speech on the Senate Floor, click here.

Today’s vote is the latest step in a long history to degrade the filibuster:

  • The Senate was always designed to be deliberate. George Washington was said to have told Thomas Jefferson that the Senate should serve as a “cooling saucer” for legislation from the House.
  • Before 1917, there was no way to end debate in the Senate whatsoever.
  • At the urging of President Woodrow Wilson, the Senate adopted Rule 22 that year and first used it two years later. For more than the next 80 years, some tweaks were made to the rule and its reach was expanded, but there was no real threat to its existence.
  • In 2005, that all changed when then-Majority Leader Bill Frist made the first serious effort to change the rules of the Senate and reduce the power of every member of the Senate by deploying the “Nuclear Option”.
  • In 2013, Harry Reid and the Democrats voted to change the rules to end the filibuster with a lower threshold for cabinet-level nominees and federal judges. Senator Manchin was one of only three Democratic Senators to oppose this vote.
  • At that time the Then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said “The American people decided not to give the Democrats the House, or to restore the filibuster proof majority they had in the Senate back in 2009 and our Democratic colleagues don’t like that one bit. They just don’t like it. The American people are getting in the way of what they’d like to do. So they are trying to change the rules of the game to get there way anyway.”
  • Much like Senator McConnell, Senator Manchin believed that changing the rules surrounding the filibuster was wrong.
  • In 2017, Majority Leader McConnell and the Republicans flipped their position and voted to lower the threshold to end debate on Supreme Court nominees from a 60 vote supermajority to a simple majority, during now-Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation process. Consistent with his previous position, Senator Manchin voted no.