Trump praises Joe Manchin for defending filibuster — despite calling to eliminate it for years

Trump previously said he hated the filibuster because it allowed a small minority to "totally control" the Senate

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 7, 2021 7:02PM (EDT)

Joe Manchin and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Joe Manchin and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump on Monday praised centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., for his support of the filibuster —  even though Trump spent years calling for the Senate to eliminate it.

Trump said during a phone interview with Fox Business that Manchin was "doing the right thing" by opposing Democratic calls to eliminate or reform the filibuster, which would allow the party to pass legislation with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes currently needed to advance bills amid rampant partisan obstruction.

"Well, it's a very important thing. He's doing the right thing and it's a very important thing," Trump said on Monday. "Otherwise you're going to be packing the court. You're going to be doing all sorts of very, very bad things that were unthinkable and were never even brought up during the election. Nobody brought this stuff up."

Trump claimed that eliminating the filibuster is "so radical liberal, radical left, Bernie Sanders can't believe it" even though Sanders and the majority of Senate Democrats support the move.

Sanders last year praised former President Barack Obama for calling to eliminate the filibuster in response to "modern-day poll taxes, gerrymandering, ID requirements, and other forms of voter suppression" that Trump has supported.

If advancing voting rights "requires us to eliminate the filibuster," Sanders said, "then that is what we must do."

In an op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail over the weekend, Manchin reiterated his support for keeping the filibuster and declared that he would oppose the For the People Act, a sweeping Democratic voting rights bill, because Republicans don't like it.

"I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster," Manchin wrote.

Manchin instead claimed that the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would require states to pre-clear electoral changes with the Justice Department, would be a bipartisan alternative. In fact, just one Senate Republican (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) supports it while the majority of the party is pushing ahead with severe voting restrictions across the country.

While praising Manchin's position, Trump neglected to mention that he spent much of his presidency demanding that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., eliminate the filibuster to get around Democratic opposition to funding his border wall.

Trump in 2017 called the filibuster "very outdated" and warned that it makes Republicans "look like fools" because it allows a small number of opposing Democrats to "totally control" the Senate. In 2018, he used much of a budget meeting with Republican leaders to rail against the filibuster and warn that keeping it in place would be "the end of the party," lawmakers told Politico.

"Republicans must get rid of the stupid Filibuster rule — it is killing you!" he tweeted in 2018. He again reiterated that position as he pushed for border wall funding in late 2018, demanding that McConnell "use the Nuclear Option and get it done!"

While Manchin noted in his op-ed that dozens of Democrats opposed scrapping the filibuster when Trump called for doing so, a majority of Senate Democrats now support it as they push to pass voting rights legislation in response to dozens of Republican-led state legislatures enacting laws that make it harder to vote. Republicans are largely devoid of policy proposals other than tax cuts, and the blowback effect if the GOP regains control of the Senate without a filibuster is overblown, some Democrats have argued.

But Manchin and fellow filibuster supporter Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., are hardly the only ones in the party that have expressed concerns about scrapping the filibuster or partisan Democratic proposals. As many as 10 Democratic senators have been "wary of changing the filibuster practice," according to the Associated Press. Other than Sinema, most of these members have stayed quiet "because Joe Manchin is out there taking all the arrows for them," a Democratic Senate aide told The Washington Post last week.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sunday grilled Manchin on whether he was being "naive" about the prospect of bipartisanship in the deeply divided Senate and empowering "Republicans to be obstructionists."

"I'm not being naive. I think [McConnell's] 100% wrong in trying to block all the good things that we're trying to do for America," Manchin told Wallace. "I'm going to continue to keep working with my bipartisan friends, and hopefully we can get more of them."

But while Manchin may not be the only Senate Democrat to oppose changes to the filibuster, he is the only one to publicly oppose the For the People Act. Progressives hammered Manchin for his opposition to a bill that Democrats have championed for years.

"Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell," Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., told CNN, arguing that "Manchin is doing everything in his power to stop democracy and to stop our work for the people. Manchin is not pushing us closer to bipartisanship, he is doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist, just like they've been since the beginning of Biden's presidency."

Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., told MSNBC that Manchin's op-ed was "intellectually unserious" and did not acknowledge that one side is "actively working to dismantle our democracy."

Jones added on Twitter, "Manchin's op-ed might as well be titled, 'Why I'll vote to preserve Jim Crow.'"

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

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Aggregation Donald Trump Filibuster For The People Act Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Mitch Mcconnell Politics