Speed Reads

lower the threshold

Is Joe Manchin overlooking a 'middle ground' filibuster solution?

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has, time and again, been clear about his stance on the filibuster — he has no intention of voting to eliminate or weaken it, despite pressure from his fellow Democrats, because he wants to avoid an overly partisan, ideological Senate. But, writing from a conservative perspective, The New York Times' Ross Douthat ponders whether he should remain open to lowering the Senate tool's threshold from 60 votes to 55 vote.

Douthat thinks such a move could serve as a "middle ground" that "adapts the filibuster in a reasonable way to our age of heightened polarization, maintaining protections for the minority [party], while making some deals that used to be possible available again." There's a chance, he writes, that it could carve out a path "toward consensus without expecting our divisions to magically disappear."

The Washington Post's Greg Sargent asked the same question posed by Douthat. He spoke with Ira Shapiro, a former counsel for the late Sen. Robert Byrd, who like Manchin was a Democrat from West Virginia. Byrd staged what Sargent noted is one of "history's most notorious filibusters" when he tried to block the Civil Rights Act in 1964, but he did ultimately support lowering the threshold from 67 to 60. Shapiro told Sargent cutting it down again to 55 would be consistent with Byrd's views on the filibuster, because the senator's "nightmare scenario was a paralyzed Senate."

Sargent thinks Manchin could come around to viewing the change as an opportunity to play Senate savior, but there's still no indication that he'll bend to the idea. Read Douthat's piece at The New York Times.