United States Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), who along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) is one of two key holdouts within their caucus on eliminating the filibuster, has been in talks with Republicans on implementing small changes to the body’s rules.

Manchin and Synema’s defection from the Democratic majority’s mission to gut the filibuster, which Republicans have weaponized as a tactic of legislative obstruction, has crippled their party’s capacity to enact key aspects of President Joe Biden‘s historically progressive agenda, including protecting voting rights, improving the nation’s infrastructure, expanding health care and tackling climate change.

While there is bipartisan agreement that procedural modifications are necessary, the ‘how’ is still a matter of contention.

“Most of us would argue that the only thing that it takes to get the Senate working better is behavioral change. … But he is trying to come up with some fairly, I would say, creative ideas about the rules,” Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), the minority whip, told The Hill in an interview.


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There is a “considerable amount of interest in trying to make the Senate functional,” he said, adding that “I think part of maybe his motivation too is just to take the pressure off of that and if we could get some things done that would make it more conducive to accomplishment then he wouldn’t feel, and others wouldn’t feel, as much pressure to nuke the filibuster.”

Thune was not the only Republican to open up about the talks.

“There’s been casual discussions for some time,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) said. “There aren’t that many things that they expect us to get done every single year, but we should be in a position to get those things done in a timely fashion” and that “I think there’s a lot of us that feel that way.”

Manchin, although he remains opposed to killing the filibuster, said that he is exploring alternative means of improving the Senate’s functionality.

“I’ve been talking to Republicans and Democrats, how do we make the place work, so we can treat each other like human beings and try to get something accomplished and do the job we are supposed to do,” Manchin said, stressing that he and his colleagues are reviewing “any rules that would basically help this place work.”

Like Manchin and Synema, Republicans are united in their resistance to scrapping the filibuster, leaving Democrats with the so-called “nuclear option” as the only workaround left at their disposal.

Manchin, however, confirmed that he rejects employing such a controversial move, even though Democrats have yet to have a go at it.

“Everyone should be looking at how we make the place work better. We’ve had good conversations. We’ll see if something comes out of it. It should be done bipartisan,” said Manchin. “I just said it should be bipartisan — why would you go nuclear option? … I’ve never voted for that. I’ve never voted for that, ok?”

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