Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., must decide whether keeping the filibuster is worth losing the republic. When Senate Republicans, including Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., recently used the filibuster to dodge an investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, Manchin’s dilemma was delivered into sharp focus.
Related to that is whether some Senate Republicans might quietly scoff at Manchin’s defense of the filibuster while they use the rule to subvert democracy. Do some of his GOP colleagues consider Manchin to be a reliable dupe who may be depended on to always come to their market with a pocket of cash and go home with a handful of magic beans?
Perhaps, if remarks about the Jan. 6 Commission by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., mean anything. McConnell said, “There is no new fact about that day that we need the Democrats’ extraneous committee to uncover.”
Grownups understand that McConnell is, in reality, afraid of what might be uncovered. Such as what then-President Donald Trump was doing during the siege and the riot-related roles of several GOP members of Congress, as well as the doings of 57 state and local elected officials who have been identified as taking part in the breach.
Those features of Jan. 6, as well as details of its planning and funding, are imps from Hell to Republicans such as McConnell and Capito. Which is why, by hiding behind the skirts of the filibuster, they evaded even the possibility of considering whether a Jan. 6 Commission should be created.
The filibuster’s death grip on progress surely will not stop with its strangulation of the Jan. 6 inquiry. Hope for national voting standards and practices also hang in the balance, given that at least 14 states with GOP legislatures and governors have enacted laws to make voting more difficult. Corrective legislation lies in the For the People Act, which the U.S. House has passed and would be signed into law by President Joe Biden, except for the all-but-certain filibuster by the Republican minority in the Senate.
Yet, Manchin recently said to reporters, “I’m not ready to destroy our government,” by getting rid of the filibuster. But perhaps Manchin might yet shrug off the dust of the filibuster with the realization that it is unwise to permit a single member of the Senate to wield almost as much power to halt America’s progress as King George III once claimed for himself.
Thus, one might ask whether Manchin has had enough. Or will he accede to the Republicans who continue to prostitute the arcane Senate rule? Manchin recently spoke of finding “10 good people” within the Senate’s Republican caucus who would vote for the Jan. 6 Commission. But his search was in vain.
It is a sad irony that the filibuster rule, having been devised to ensure that the minority party’s views would be heard, now is employed to stop Senate business before it can begin. Thus, Manchin must decide whether to keep the filibuster, and its defeatist power to return a mere nickel on the dollar, or do away with it. Or he might pursue an alternative, such as the standing filibuster.
Manchin is a good man. But his legacy of devoted service might well hinge on his response to the GOP’s use of the filibuster in the service of tyranny by the minority. Manchin stands at the precipice, peering into the filibuster’s dark abyss, where the ashy faces of the Republican Party’s caucus defiantly stare back at him. Indeed, as he understands, his time in the arena has arrived.