Manchin says he supports ProAct, but would keep filibuster
Conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia continues to say he supports the filibuster which could be used to kill labor law reform which he claims to support/AP

WASHINGTON —A key senator in the fight to pass the Protect The Right To Organize (Pro) Act, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, formally announced he supports it.

But while that’s good news and makes him the sponsor #47 for the legislation, there’s a caveat: In the same press conference, Manchin again upheld the Senate filibuster, which the GOP could use to kill the bill—even if it gets 50 senators’ support and heads to the floor.

“I will co-sponsor the ProAct. This legislation will level the playing field” between workers and bosses, Manchin declared in an April 19 zoom press conference with Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts.

The senator put his support in the context of providing union rights and union jobs for West Virginians when carbon capture plants are built in the Mountaineer State, near its famous coal-mining areas. Those plants could employ retrained out-of-work coal miners.

Manchin’s support is important in the 50-50 Senate, under Democratic control only because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes. But she can’t do so on regular legislation—such as the ProAct—because its backers must garner 60 senators for it.

With 50 Republicans, any 41 of whom can defeat attempts to stop filibusters, making prospects chancy for the ProAct, the most comprehensive pro-worker labor law reform since the original 1935 National Labor Relations Act.

This is where the battle over the filibuster comes in…and where Manchin drops out.

Progressives, including pro-worker senators, demand abolition of the filibuster and its 60-vote standard. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka agrees. He’s said arcane U.S. Senate rules, i.e., the filibuster, should not stand in the way of legislation the nation wants and needs.

Manchin disagrees. He holds to the proposition that the 60-vote requirement to stop filibusters encourages both parties to compromise and work in a bipartisan manner.

“I remember when” former GOP Oval Office occupant Donald “Trump put an enormous amount of pressure on us to get rid of the filibuster,” Manchin mused. He opposed killing the filibuster then and still does. “The Senate was designed to be bipartisan. And I’m not giving up on the Senate, on bipartisanship or democracy,” he vowed.

Political scientists and scholars point out the combination of the two-senators-per-state constitutional requirement and the filibuster—which isn’t in the Constitution, just in the Senate rules—gives a minority, representing a minority of people, inordinate power to block anything.

That’s what Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did to the entire legislative agenda during Democratic President Barack Obama’s terms and what he did to all House-passed legislation in the last Congress, including the ProAct. The top Obama exception, the Affordable Care Act, was watered down to get past the senatorial blockade. It did, barely.

And congressional scholars, led by the most respected one, Thomas Mann of the  American Enterprise Institute, point out that for the last 25 years or so, Manchin’s basic assumption—that the filibuster would push both parties to compromise—is wrong. The GOP, Mann concludes, is so ideologically rightist that its stand is always “my way or the highway.”

Statistics bear Mann out. Records at showed in the last Congress, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., led all GOPers in lockstep Trump support, at 94.9%. Three—Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—lagged, at 72.6%-75%.



Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.