Joe Manchin’s sweeping new voting rights proposal, explained
The pivotal senator has released a potentially transformative plan to promote fair elections.But on Wednesday, Manchin did something unexpected: He released a long list of voting reforms that he does support, potentially scrambling the congressional debate over voting rights as the Senate prepares to vote on Democratic leaders’ proposal.
WASHINGTON – After meeting with civil rights leaders on Capitol Hill Tuesday, West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin said he remains opposed to a sweeping voting rights bill that advocates say is necessary to prevent voter suppression efforts in GOP-led states around the country.
Manchin described the one-hour meeting as "very productive and very informative" but said his mind had not changed after announcing in a Sunday newspaper column he would oppose the bill, known as the For the People Act.
"No, I don't think anybody changed positions on that," he told reporters Tuesday after the closed-door meeting. "We're just learning where everybody's coming from. We're learning where everybody's position is."
The Democratic Senators Hiding Behind Joe Manchin
It was March 5, right before the Senate’s doomed vote to raise the minimum wage to $15, and, as usual, Sen. Joe Manchin was the center of attention. But there was no need for reporters to swarm the West Virginia moderate. On that day, he was far from the only Democrat who’d give the thumbs-down to a progressive priority. Seven other Democratic senators would vote the same way—and draw far less recognition or criticism. That tally surprisedBut there was no need for reporters to swarm the West Virginia moderate. On that day, he was far from the only Democrat who’d give the thumbs-down to a progressive priority. Seven other Democratic senators would vote the same way—and draw far less recognition or criticism.
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In a 50-50 Senate that Democrats control only because Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaking vote, Manchin is a key lawmaker on almost every partisan issue, including voting rights. And his opposition to doing away with the Senate filibuster means the bill would need to get 60 votes to force a floor vote even if he ended up supporting the bill.
The measure would allow the federal government to implement a national standard election framework for states to follow and would allow the federal government to enforce civil rights protections and laws. The House passed a similar bill March 3.
Manchin's staunch opposition to ending filibuster may imperil Biden's agenda, including infrastructure
Manchin dashed hopes on the left that recent events might compel him to reconsider his support for keeping the Senate's 60-vote rule to pass bills.The moderate Democrat, in a Sunday op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, not only revealed his opposition to the Democratic-backed For the People Act but reiterated he won't vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.
Rev. Al Sharpton, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, National Urban League President Marc H. Morial and Melanie L. Campbell, the president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, were among those who met with Manchin.
They shared their concerns and priorities related to voting and policing reform with Manchin, promoting not just the For the People Act, but also the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which seeks to punish law enforcement officers who abuse their authority.
More: Joe Manchin will oppose For the People Act, putting Senate's voting rights bill in peril
In a statement, the group expressed that “the two voting rights bills are a top priority and essential to protect the freedom to vote. There continues to be an unprecedented partisan wave of state legislative proposals that are aimed at denying the right to vote – particularly for Black and Brown people."
Joe Manchin said in 2011 that the US was 'paralyzed by the filibuster' but is now blocking efforts to change it
In a 2011 press release, Manchin said that senators wanting to halt bills should turn to "sustained debate" rather than the filibuster.Manchin is currently the only Democratic senator refusing to back the For the People Act, a sweeping voting-rights bill that would cancel many GOP-led voting restrictions at the state level. It passed the House with no Republican Party support, and its chances of passing the Senate have been destroyed due to Manchin's opposition.
The push to pass the For The People Act comes as several Republican-controlled states continue to pass a series of election and voting security laws, which opponents of the laws argue will make it harder for people to vote – especially people of color.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Tuesday he was determined to bring the voting rights bill to the floor the week of June 21.
More: Joe Manchin says the right to vote is fundamental. So why isn't he trying to protect it?
"We're going to put S1 on the floor," the New York Democrat said, referring to its legislative title. "As I said, we're open to changes and modifications as long as it does the job."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters that Manchin is in the process of putting together a list of items in the voting rights bill that were acceptable and objectionable to him.
"That's what we're waiting on," he said.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., said he talked to Manchin over the weekend and continues to seek compromise to approve the voting-rights bill. Warnock, a minister, said the late Rep. John Lewis was a member of his church, but that using legislation named for him wouldn’t be enough to cover the protections for voting included in the For the People Act.
Joe Manchin keeps Democrats guessing on sweeping election bill
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is keeping his colleagues guessing on whether he will back a sweeping election bill during a high-profile vote next week. Democrats are expected to hold a key test vote next week on S. 1, titled the For the People Act. The debate will spotlight a simmering months-long fight over voting rights. The measure is guaranteed to run headlong into a filibuster, but Democrats are hoping to at least put up a unified front and keep the focus on GOP opposition - not their own divisions. Progressive activists, meanwhile, want to get all senators in the Democratic caucus to back the bill.
More: Democrats and Republicans are battling over voting rights in Congress and at statehouses. Which side will win?
“We’ve got to pass John Lewis in order to protect voting rights. We've got to pass the For the People Act to provide some basic standards for our elections,” Warnock told USA TODAY Tuesday.
He said voting rights have been curtailed for the last decade through long lines, polling places being moved at the last minute and voter names purged from the rolls.
“This is not theoretical stuff, this is people's actual ability to exercise their basic constitutional rights,” Warnock said. “Voting is not a privilege, it’s a right.”
Manchin said the discussion included his concerns about protecting voting rights and the fragility of the democracy. But he said they didn't take positions for or against the John Lewis legislation, for example.
More: Joe Manchin suddenly seems to influence everything Washington does. The West Virginia senator says he wants to make Congress ‘work again’
“There was nothing basically for or against,” Manchin said. “It’ basically everyone’s position was discussed. It was an excellent meeting.”
Manchin said conversations will continue with participants in the meeting.
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who is African American, said he doesn't think Manchin's mind is made up.
"I definitely don't, especially after the conversations he's been having with a lot of my colleagues in terms of what the possibilities are for pushing back on some of the most oppressive of voter suppression and restriction laws since Jim Crow."
Manchin cited the lack of Republican support and bipartisanship as the reason for opposing the legislation, stating that voting and election reform “done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen,” Manchin said in an op-ed for the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sen. Joe Manchin remains opposed to voting bill despite 'productive' meeting with civil rights leaders
Some Democrats wonder when Schumer will get tough with Manchin .
Sen. Joe Manchin's defiant statement that he will not vote for a sweeping election reform bill nor vote to get rid of the filibuster has progressive groups and some Democratic lawmakers wondering when Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will get tough with the West Virginia Democrat.Manchin is a member of Schumer's leadership team and Schumer has several points of leverage, including the power to replace him as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But Schumer doesn't have a reputation for getting tough with colleagues. Instead, he keeps them close and hardly ever criticizes Democratic senators who cause him headaches.