West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin made news earlier this month when he said he was open to changing Senate rules governing the filibuster. “If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk — I’m willing to look at any way we can,” Manchin said on Meet the Press.
One question Manchin had not (to my knowledge) been asked until today: How many votes does he think it should take to change the Senate rules to require a “talking filibuster”?
To change the Standing Rules of the Senate, it practically requires the support of two-thirds of senators voting. But with the “nuclear option,” a simple majority overrides the written rules by setting a precedent contrary to them (as Harry Reid and Senate Democrats did in 2013 in order to change the rules regarding most judicial nominees).
So when Manchin talks about switching to a “talking filibuster,” does he think that change to the rules would require two-thirds of the Senate or a simple majority? When asked that question in the Capitol on Thursday, Manchin told National Review: “Go read Rule XXII, and then tell me what you think.”
Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate says that in order to cut off debate on “a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules” the “affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting.”
I asked Manchin if he supports the Senate rule effectively requiring 67 votes to change the rules — rather than using the so-called “nuclear option” to override Senate rules with a simple majority.
“Let’s just use the rules we already have,” Manchin said.
Although he didn’t directly answer the question, he seemed to clearly indicate — by repeatedly pointing to Rule XXII — that any change to the rules on the filibuster would need the support of two-thirds of senators voting.
Here’s the transcript of the exchange with Manchin in the Capitol on Thursday:
National Review: How many votes would it take to do a “talking filibuster” — change the rules — 50 plus one or 67? Two-thirds to change the rules—
Senator Manchin: You all go read Rule XXII, and then tell me what you think. Read paragraph three, Rule XXII of the Senate, and tell me what you think.
NR: Okay, and you agree with that rule?
Manchin: Just go look at it, and you tell me what you think.
NR: I mean, there’s the nuclear option and then there’s the rules, so —
Manchin: Go read the rules. We have plenty of opportunities. Let’s just use the rules we already have.