Let’s Give Joe Manchin 48 hours

Richard Quadrino
3 min readApr 18, 2021
Democrats are chained and constrained: is it time to break free from the filibuster?

For the first time in recent history, Senate Democrats are talking openly about completely abolishing the Senate’s filibuster rule. However, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is adamantly opposed to such a move and he has publicly and brazenly split from the Democratic party on this critically important issue.

Why is our immigration problem apparently unsolvable? The filibuster. Why is the minimum wage set at poverty levels, making millions of Americans struggle to survive? The filibuster. Why can’t we have some sensible laws to keep guns out of the hands of unstable and dangerous people? The filibuster. Why do 16% of children in the U.S. go to bed hungry at night? The filibuster.

The Senate’s filibuster rule essentially requires 60 votes — a supermajority — to get almost any meaningful legislation passed in the Senate. Republicans have increasingly used the rule to block any progressive-oriented legislation or anything that they deem inconsistent with the goals or objectives of their party. They don’t even attempt to seek compromises that would allow for some progress to be made on the many intractable problems facing this country.

So, in today's hyper-partisan environment, the Senate is often deadlocked. It is the place where important legislation just goes to die. Of course, Democrats have used the rule in a partisan fashion, but Republicans have increasingly abused the rule in the past two decades — beyond shamelessly — by using it to ban almost everything the Democrats seek to accomplish.

Indeed, the Republicans’ use of the filibuster skyrocketed through the roof during President Obama’s two terms, effectively preventing progress on the many problems that we need to tackle. And even legislation that did sneak through when the Democrats held the Senate, not one single Republican voted for the legislation (not even to save the country from the devastation of the 2008/2009 financial crisis).

The result? Our legislative branch of government is essentially shackled in chains.

So, back to Senator Joe Manchin. He writes:

“the time has come to end these political games, and to usher in a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”

But we've heard such hopeful — and now quite naïve — statements for decades. Compromise on legislation in the Senate is just not happening and it’s nowhere on the horizon.

Senator Manchin is apparently fully prepared to be the one pivotal person (the Senate is split 50–50 Democrats and Republicans, with the Vice-President breaking any ties) who, for example, blocks the protection of voting rights, enables mass shootings to continue, keeps the minimum wage at poverty levels and prevents 32 million uninsured people from getting access to affordable health insurance.

Let’s put Manchin to the test. “Joe, you’ve got 48 hours to talk to your Republican “friends” and bring back a group of them to sit at the table to talk about compromises. If they’re willing, we’ll know right away. So go see if you get handshakes or stiff armed and come back to us in two days.” After he undoubtedly fails, what then? “Do we give you more time, Joe? How much time? Children are starving and Republican legislatures around the country are seeking to impose voting restrictions so they can cheat their way into elective victories.”

Time’s up, Joe. Put your actions where your mouth is. Show us how bipartisanship works, Manchin style. Be a hero. Singlehandedly solve our problems. We’ll all be so grateful. Please show us the way.

But if you can’t because you’re living in a fantasy and you’re all talk and no action, then get the hell out of the way of progress.

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Richard Quadrino

Richard is a law professor, trial lawyer and media critic in Washington, DC.