Manchin convenes bipartisan group to talk Senate rules reform

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) met with a bipartisan group of senators this week to discuss how to "restore the Senate," including how to make it easier to bring up legislation.

The group, which met in Manchin's Senate basement office on Monday night, included Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine (Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) and GOP Sens. Mike Rounds (S.D.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Roy Blunt (Mo.).

"We've had informal talks on several different occasions ... to try to find a way to make it simpler, to make easier to get on subject matter [bills]," Rounds said.

One idea that was floated during the meeting was getting rid of the 60-vote hurdle on proceeding to legislation, though nothing was decided. Such a change would still require 60 votes to end debate on legislation.

Rounds added that he was supportive of getting rid of the 60-vote threshold for starting debate on a bill but that he was "very much in favor of maintaining the filibuster" required to end debate on a bill.

"That's part of the discussion that we had," he added.

Tester said the meeting was about how to "restore the Senate."

The meeting comes after The Hill first reported last week that Manchin, who has been vocally opposed to getting rid of the filibuster, was talking with Republicans about smaller rules changes that could make it easier to get votes on amendments or bills to the floor.

"There was no meeting of the minds," Romney said.

The group is the latest in recent years to discuss potential changes to the Senate rules that don't rise to nixing the legislative filibuster altogether.

But those negotiations, including among a bipartisan group earlier this year that featured many of the same members, broke apart without getting a result.

The bipartisan group on smaller rules changes comes as Democrats are trying to get Manchin to support changing the legislative filibuster, which has been a stumbling block to getting voting rights and other priorities through the Senate.

To change the rules senators need 67 votes, which would require significant GOP support, or Democrats could try to change the rules on their own under the "nuclear option," which would require all 50 Democratic votes, including Manchin's.

Asked last week if he would support using the nuclear option, Manchin added: "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?"