Rolling Stone rips Manchin for not 'saving democracy,' portrays Biden as ineffective in pushing voting bills

Senate filibuster remains intact after Manchin, Sinema vote with Republicans

Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram reports from Capitol Hill on the fallout.

A Rolling Stone piece published Sunday complained Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., “knifed” the Democrats when it came to abolishing the filibuster and getting voting rights legislation passed, but it also called out President Biden as “doing more harm than good” in negotiations.

The piece in the left-wing magazine headlined “How Joe Manchin Knifed the Democrats — and Bailed on Saving Democracy,” outlined the unsuccessful Democratic effort to get Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to agree on getting the filibuster abolished so Democrats could pass a massive election law overhaul.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 06: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks at a press conference outside his office on Capitol Hill on October 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Manchin spoke on the debt limit and the infrastructure bill. ()
(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“They needed him,” the piece read. “Not a single Republican had said they would support the voting bill, which left Democrats with only one path to passage: Change the filibuster, the procedural tactic that requires a 60-vote majority to advance most types of legislation.”

Rolling Stone noted several lawmakers lobbied Manchin behind the scenes for months to get him to change his mind, including Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Angus King, I-Maine.

“On weekends and holidays, on conference calls and huddled in one another’s hideaways in the bowels of the Capitol, Kaine, King, and Tester had urged Manchin to support his party’s proposal for overhauling the country’s voting laws,” the Rolling Stone piece said. 

Manchin and Sinema voted against nuking the filibuster in January and emphasized that using a party-line vote was too far. Kaine spoke on the record with Rolling Stone about his efforts to persuade Manchin but conceded that “maybe that was just me” in thinking  Manchin was ever going to move off his stance.

At another point in the piece, Rolling Stone wrote about Democrats effectively trying to trick Manchin, who represents a state former President Donald Trump won by nearly 40 points in 2020, into abandoning his principles on the issue.

“Democrats and outside activists agreed that any talk of ‘abolishing’ or ‘weakening’ the filibuster would scare off Manchin, so they framed their lobbying blitz as an effort to ‘restore the Senate’ and make it work better,” the magazine reported, to the derision of National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke.

“In other words: Manchin remained opposed to filibuster reform in public; Manchin remained opposed to filibuster reform in private; and yet, for some reason, the Democrats believed that they would be able to change Manchin’s mind by adopting the sort of transparently duplicitous marketing-speak that even a child would be able to see through,” Cooke wrote.

Rolling Stone, after interviewing over 30 people inside and outside of Congress that were familiar with the issue, said that Biden, Manchin and Sinema were all to blame “for the defeat.”

President Joe Biden (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Biden, the piece said, “never seemed fully committed to passing voting-rights legislation.”

The report said that when Biden did get involved in negotiations, he did “more harm than good.” The piece also suggested that Biden saw Build Back Better bill as his top priority and the filibuster and voting rights bill was “a secondary concern.”

In another anecdote in the piece, Biden made an ill-fated appearance at a closed-door Senate Democratic caucus meeting, shortly after Sinema gave a floor speech defending her stance on keeping the filibuster intact.

“Anyone hoping for a rousing call to action or LBJ-style browbeating was disappointed,” Rolling Stone reported. “Biden drifted from one side of the room to the other, at times speaking so softly that senators struggled to hear him, according to one source in the room … When Manchin asked Biden a question about the history of the filibuster, Biden’s answer was so unconvincing that Schumer motioned to Sen. Jeff Merkley to intervene and give a more substantive response, according to multiple witnesses.”

A Manchin spokeswoman told Rolling Stone that Manchin never supported abolishing the filibuster, and Manchin repeatedly made that clear in public to frequent questioning from the press, as did Sinema. Some Senate Democrats also believed that despite Sinema’s opposition to the nuking of the filibuster, if Manchin were to vote in favor of it, she would as well, according to Rolling Stone. 

President Biden failed to convince Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.
(AP/Getty Images)

“Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel on the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart,” Manchin said, after voting no on changing the filibuster to threshold to 51 votes, said. 

Both Sinema and Manchin supported the voting rights legislation.

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