Negotiating with Manchin is like playing on an ‘Etch A Sketch’ because his opinion changes based on the last person he talked to, Democrats say

Joe Manchin
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) speaks with Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) (L), before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on June 9, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin opposes removing the Senate filibuster that's part of the Freedom to Vote Act. 
  • Democrats are trying to get Manchin on board to pass the wide-ranging voting rights legislation. 
  • But those close to the discussions told Axios it's like "negotiating via Etch A Sketch."

Democrats trying to convince Sen. Joe Manchin to pass the Freedom to Vote Act say it's "like negotiating via Etch A Sketch," because he changes his mind based on the last person he's spoken with, Axios reported. 

"You think you're just about there. You think you've got an agreement on most of the things and it's settling in. And then you come back the next morning and you're starting from scratch," a source familiar with the negotiations told Axios. 

The Freedom to Vote Act is a wide-ranging voting rights and election reform bill. However, in October Senate Republicans filibustered the measure.

Manchin is a supporter of the act, but alongside Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, opposes completely removing the Senate filibuster's 60-vote threshold or creating a carveout – a one-time exception – that would allow Democrats to pass the bill along party lines, as Insider's Joseph Zeballos-Roig and Grace Panetta previously reported.

Axios reported that President Joe Biden's administration is hoping Sens. Angus King, Jon Tester, and Tim Kaine can lobby Manchin to pass the legislation. However, while the three senators have met with Manchin and gotten him to negotiate several times in the past few weeks, the conversations have not been consistent. 

An unnamed aide to one of the senators told Axios that Manchin would go home after the meetings, talk to outside sources, and come back with new questions that reopen old debates. 

"I think he listens to everybody, which is the problem. Whoever he's heard from most recently has the upper hand," that source told Axios.

King, Tester, and Kaine are trying to discuss possible limits to the filibuster carveout but Manchin has maintained that he's not on board with any carveouts. 

Manchin's office did not respond to Insider's request for comment at the time of publication. 

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