Manchin says changing filibuster with nuclear option will be 'heavy lift,' dimming hopes for his yes

The moderate Democrat continues to appear unswayed by the arguments of his party to eliminate the legislative filibuster
Manchin on Oct. 7, 2021
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Sen. Joe Manchin said Tuesday that changing the rules for the Senate filibuster using the so-called nuclear option would be a "heavy lift," dimming hopes the West Virginia moderate will vote with fellow Senate Democrats to change the rules to pass key legislation without support from Senate Republicans.

"Being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option," Manchin told reporters, according to The Hill newspaper. "It's very, very difficult. It's a heavy lift."

The nuclear option refers to a situation in which Democrats alter the 60-vote legislative filibuster without any support from Republicans. Most legislation in the chamber needs 60 votes for passage, and right now has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

Manchin said his "preference" would be that any rules change gain the support of both parties.

His comments come in the wake of a promise from Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to force a vote on the rules change by Jan. 17 should Republicans proceed with their plan to block key pieces of Democratic legislation.

"As I said in my Dear Colleague earlier this week, if Republicans continue to hijack the rules of the chamber to prevent action on something as critical as protecting our democracy, then the Senate will debate and consider changes to the rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day," Schumer said Tuesday.

To accomplish that change, Schumer would need the guaranteed support of every member of his caucus, including Manchin and fellow Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, each of whom have warned for many months that they are not supportive of overturning the legislative filibuster.

Manchin also said Tuesday: "I'm talking. I'm not agreeing to any of this. ... I want to talk and see all the options we have open. 

Schumer has reportedly selected a number of senators to attempt to sway Manchin on the issue – those talks are going on this week and will likely continue. 

One option that has been presented to Manchin is creating an exemption from the filibuster for so-called voting rights legislation, which is what the Democrats are currently attempting to bring to the floor. This angle, however, does not appear to have been sharp enough to move the West Virginian.

"Anytime there's a carve out, you eat the whole turkey. There's nothing left," he said.