Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., refuses to say whether he'll support his party's sweeping voting rights bill during a vote next week.
Democrats are expected to hold a key test vote next week on the "For the People Act," and they'd like to put up a unified front for the legislation, The Hill reported.
Asked how he'll vote, Manchin told reporters, "We'll have to see what changes are made."
Manchin hasn't even told Democrat Senate colleagues how he plans to vote.
"There's no doubt that there's a good voting bill ... that Joe Manchin will vote for," said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., predicting Manchin remains in play.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the chamber's No. 2 Democrat, said Manchin had not told him how he'll vote.
Progressives are seeking full Democrat support for S.1 so they then can escalate efforts to kill the legislative filibuster.
With the Senate split evenly along party lines, 60 votes would be needed to end debate.
A moderate Democrat, Manchin remains the lone holdout on the sweeping elections bill, as the caucus' other 49 members are co-sponsors and expected to vote for the legislation, The Hill said Thursday.
Late last week, Manchin circulated to his colleagues a list of what he supports and doesn't support in the bill. The list was shared with reporters Wednesday at Manchin's insistence.
"I've been sharing everything that I support and the things that I can support and vote with," he said, "and things that I think's in the bill that [don't] need to be in the bill."
Manchin listed roughly two dozen ideas for strengthening the Voting Rights Act after it was gutted by a 2013 Supreme Court decision. The Hill said those items included:
- Making Election Day a public holiday.
- Mandating at least 15 consecutive days for early voting in federal elections.
- Banning gerrymandering.
- Instituting automatic voter registration through the DMV.
The Hill reported that among the items Manchin supports in the current bill are:
- Tighter campaign finance requirements currently in the bill, including requiring online and digital ads to disclose their source similar to TV and radio ads.
- Tightening ethics requirements for presidents and vice presidents
- Mandating that campaigns and committees report foreign contacts.
Manchin's list did not include some of the provisions pushed for by progressives, who seek public financing of campaigns, and no-excuse absentee voting.
Manchin also proposed voter ID requirements — alternatives such as a utility bill to provide proof of identity in order to vote — that bothers some on the left.
While some Democrats grew more frustrated with Manchin's list, The Hill reported other party members were optimistic.
"There's a lot to work with there. It's a serious proposal. It's a good faith proposal, and I think we can work with it," Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.
End Citizens United and Let America Vote Action Fund President Tiffany Muller released a statement saying Manchin's proposal "is a big first step."
"At the end of the day, we are confident that the entire Democratic Caucus will get behind this bill because the American people are behind it and our democracy demands it. Momentum is on our side," Muller said.
Democrats planned to meet Thursday to discuss strategy on voting rights. Although he missed previous meetings in which party members tried to figure out a path forward, Manchin was expected to attend the scheduled meeting.
"The Senate should put everything on the line to protect voting rights in this country," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, according to The Hill.
Manchin has complimented the majority leader with being understanding of his position, even though others in the caucus have been critical.
"He's been very kind, very tolerant. He understands it's a very different situation for all of us," Manchin said, The Hill reported.
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