Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said he’d vote with his party to begin debate on a sweeping overhaul of U.S. election laws, but that won’t be enough to overcome unified Republican opposition.
Manchin was the only Democrat who hasn’t supported the broad voting rights legislation that’s before the Senate, but he said he’s reached a compromise with other members of the party on changing it.
“Over the past month, I have worked to eliminate the far reaching provisions of S.1, the For the People Act – which I do not support,” Manchin, of West Virginia, said in a statement. “I’ve found common ground with my Democratic colleagues on a new version of the bill that ensures our elections are fair, accessible and secure.”
Republicans plan to block debate on the legislation with a filibuster, which would need 60 votes in the 50-50 Senate to break. Democratic leaders have made the bill a top priority in response to actions in GOP-led states to tighten voting laws after the 2020 election and former President Donald Trump’s false claims that he was cheated out of a victory.
“Republicans across the country are deliberately targeting all the ways that younger, poorer, non-White and typically Democratic voters access the ballot,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “They are making it harder to vote and easier to cheat in an election.”
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell was equally adamant, saying the bill is largely a package of long-standing Democratic ideas for reshaping election laws to their own advantage.
“Whatever label Democrats slap on the bill, the substance remains the same: It’s always been a plan to rewrite the ground rules of American politics,” he said.
Manchin’s proposal includes dozens of items addressing voting rights, ethics and campaign finance. Some are likely to appeal to Democrats, such as minimum standards for early voting, a ban on partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and a federal holiday for election day. The proposal also includes voter identification requirements, which generally have been opposed by many Democrats.
The showdown with Republicans is again putting the spotlight on the chamber’s filibuster rule and calls from some Democrats for the Senate to get rid of, or change, the filibuster rule. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that the Senate’s failure to advance the legislation “will be dramatic evidence why the filibuster needs to be modified.”
Manchin also is a key figure, along with Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, in that debate. Both oppose jettisoning the filibuster, which has implications for Biden’s agenda. Sinema met separately with Biden on Monday to discuss his infrastructure proposal.
In a Washington Post op-ed published on Monday night, Sinema, who supports the For the People Act, as the voting rights bill is known, reiterated her opposition to eliminating the filibuster. She wrote that Democrats have successfully deployed the filibuster when they were in the minority, and argued that they might need that weapon again.
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