Al Franken and Norm Ornstein join Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss Joe Manchin’s possible support for reforming the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
June 17, 2021

Some encouraging news last night on Last Word as Lawrence O'Donnell played some leaked audio where Joe Manchin said he was open to filibuster reform.

Al Franken and Norm Ornstein recently wrote wrote a Minneapolis Star-Tribune op-ed about reforming the filibuster.

"It's felt like Joe Manchin reread your op-ed piece today, and just put it down, and said it to these people," O'Donnell said about leaked audio that Manchin would support reforming the filibuster.

Franken pointed out Manchin has indicated he's been open to reform all along.

"He won't get rid of the filibuster, but what Norm and I have proposed is a modification, as you outlined that instead of requiring 60 votes to end a filibuster, you would require 41 from the minority to go to the floor and vote to sustain the filibuster and then they would have to hold the floor and actually debate the issue," Franken said.

"That's one of the options that Joe outlined today. and that's sort of -- that's exactly what Norm and I have proposed."

Norm Ornstein said he's "very encouraged on a couple of fronts."

He said Manchin is "making it clear that a rules change is really in the ballpark. And I think, you know, if you look back at what Manchin has written and said, it's been misinterpreted by a lot of people.

"He said, I won't vote to kill or weaken the filibuster. What Al and I have talked about is reforming it and in many ways restoring it. That kind of fits his own view of things and fits, we believe, also, the history of Robert Byrd, the seat that he holds now in great veneration. So we're in better shape now than we were before. But it's not like this is a night and day change. but it's certainly relevant."

Al Franken described how his own experience in the Senate made him see the need for reform.

"The burden is on the 60 votes to proceed. you're saying if you switch that burden to the 41 votes to block proceeding, at minimum, they won't be able to run away on their weekends. We saw them win a vote recently with only 35 votes," O'Donnell said.

Ornstein described how things would change if the rules are reformed to require 41 votes and requiring them to be there.

"It doesn't mean we're suddenly going to see everything pass. Keep in mind, they'll still have to hold all 50 Democrats for some of the most important areas, climate change, voting reform. But when you put a heavy burden on them, and if we have a majority leader willing to play some hardball -- and Mitch McConnell has given us the template for that, you can make their lives miserable, and you can focus public attention on some of these issues," he said.

"Including guns and background checks, there's a good chance we'll get a lot of things through that are now impossible. What we've seen on a couple of occasions now is, senators don't want to stick around and be there in the middle of the night or on Mondays or weekends. If you can force them to be there, you're going to see a lot of cases where they'll say, 'So what if they get this? I got a speech back home, and I want to get there.' "

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