“It’s all the same. Nothing's changed,” Manchin stated in response to Fox News's Special Report host Bret Baier asking if the West Virginia Democrat stood behind his November commitment not to do away with the filibuster or to pack the Supreme Court. “My job right now … is to do everything in my power to bring this country together, to heal the country, and to work in a bipartisan fashion, which is the reason we have the Senate.”
Following President Trump’s push to speed through the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, many prominent Democrats pushed the idea of packing the Supreme Court to even what had become a 6-3 conservative majority.
Packing the federal courts would destroy not only the independence of the judiciary, but also the unique way that the U.S. Senate has participated in the legislative process for more than 200 years. That’s why control of the Senate will determine whether these fundamentals stay or go.
One way that federal judges are independent is that they choose when to retire. Presidents can fill vacancies, but judges determine when those vacancies occur.
“Court-packing” means vacancies would suddenly occur when Congress creates new judicial positions that a president of the same party can immediately fill.
Despite previously indicating that he opposed the idea of packing the Supreme Court, President-elect Joe Biden expressed a reluctance to take a firm position on the matter on the campaign trail following the development of Barrett’s confirmation.
However, with the prospect of a 50-50 Senate looking after the Nov. 3 election, Manchin indicated he would not side with his party if that is the route it decides to take.
“I commit to you tonight, and I commit to all of your viewers and anyone else who’s watching … when they talk about packing the courts or ending the filibuster, I will not vote to do that,” Manchin told Baier in November. “Brett, this system, this Senate is [such a] unique body in the world. It was made to work together in a bipartisan way, and once you start breaking down those barriers, then you lose everything.”
Democrats eventually emerged victorious in both Georgia Senate runoff races, paving the way for a Democratic majority due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
But with slim majorities in both the House and the Senate, centrist Democrats such as Manchin could stand in the way of some of the more ambitious ideas Democrats have as they pivot to controlling Congress and the White House.
“I am going to do the job I have always done. I’m going to continue to try working with the minority and the majority now that we’re split,” Manchin said on Monday. “We need to bring this country together, and I think people want us to.”