/Sen. Joe Manchin open to party-line vote on future bills with voting rights legislation now in focus

Sen. Joe Manchin open to party-line vote on future bills with voting rights legislation now in focus

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVA) removes his mask to speak as bipartisan members of the Senate and House gather to announce a framework for fresh coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief legislation at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, December 1, 2020.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Sen. Joe Manchin, the moderate Democrat from West Virginia, said he would consider passing legislation through a party-line vote again but only in a situation where Democrats have tried to engage Republicans.

Manchin’s comments come as the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers look toward other top priorities, including voting rights legislation, after they passed a $ 1.9 trillion Covid relief bill without any Republican support in the evenly divided Senate this weekend.

The massive stimulus package was able to survive the Senate thanks to a process known as reconciliation, which allows the chamber to approve a bill with a simple majority if it impacts the federal budget. Typically, a bill needs 60 votes before moving to the Senate floor under a rule called the filibuster.

The filibuster will make it difficult for voting rights legislation, passed by the House last week, to win approval in the Senate. Democrats would need the support of 10 Republicans under regular process.

When asked if he would support using reconciliation, Manchin said only if the regular process requiring 60 votes fails.

“I’m not going to change my mind on the filibuster,” Manchin told NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “I will change my mind if we need to go to a reconciliation to where we have to get something done, once I know they have process into it.”

“But I’m not going to go there until my Republican friends have the ability to have their say also,” he said. “And I’m hoping they will get involved to the point where we have 10 of them that will work with 50 of us.”

Democrats have raised the possibility of creating a process like reconciliation but would apply to certain key issues such as voting rights as opposed to the budget.

Manchin played an instrumental, yet at times uncertain, role in the passage of the latest Covid relief bill. Democrats could not afford to lose a single vote and had to make concessions to keep him on board.

Manchin defended the changes, which include an extra $ 300 per week in unemployment benefits rather than $ 400 per week proposed by the House of Representatives. However, those benefits run through Sept. 6. rather than Aug. 29 and recipients will not have to pay taxes on the first $ 10,200.

“Basically what would have happened, going from $ 300 to $ 400, there’s going to be a glitch with people who are going to go without unemployment checks for a while,” Manchin said on an interview with ABC’s “This Week.” The $ 300 per week is systematic and will keep a smooth transition, Manchin said.

Manchin also defended the exclusion of a plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 per hour, up from $ 7.25. He was one of eight Democratic senators to vote against an amendment put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., calling for that change.

“There is not one senator out of 100 who doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage,” Manchin said.  “$ 7.25 is sinfully low. We must raise it.”

Instead, Manchin wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 11 per hour and index that pay rate to inflation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said President Joe Biden will continue to push for a $ 15 per hour federal minimum wage.

Manchin said he is optimistic Washington leaders can work together to come to a compromise and put a change through.

“We’ll work this out and move forward, the way it should be,” he said.

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