WASHINGTON (AP) — A key Democratic senator says he will not vote for the largest overhaul of U.S. election law in at least a generation, leaving no plausible path forward for legislation that his party and the White House have portrayed as crucial for protecting access to the ballot.
“Voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen,″ Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia wrote in a home-state newspaper, the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
He wrote that failure to bring together both parties on voting legislation would “risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.”
The bill would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system. Among dozens of other provisions, it would require states to offer 15 days of early voting and allow no-excuse absentee balloting.
Democrats have pushed the legislation as the antidote to a wave of restrictive state voting laws sweeping the country, many inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud in his 2020 election loss. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has pledged to bring the election bill to a vote the week of June 21, testing where senators stand. But without Manchin’s support, the bill has no chance of advancing. Republicans are united against it.
In appearances on two Sunday news shows, Manchin stressed his reasons for opposing the bill, including his view that it is too broad.
“I think it’s the wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together and unite our country and I’m not supporting that because I think it would divide us further,” Manchin said. He also said he believes Republicans will see the need for a bipartisan deal.
“And if they think they’re going to win by subverting and oppressing people from voting, they’re going to lose. I assure you they will lose,” he said.
Manchin said lawmakers should instead focus their energies on revitalizing the landmark Voting Rights Act, which was weakened by a Supreme Court decision in 2013. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has joined him in calling for that approach.
Manchin’s opposition to the broader elections bill is just the latest challenge facing Democrats as they debate how to deliver their promises to voters. Manchin reiterated he would not vote “weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” a route that many Democrats see as the only realistic path forward. The filibuster rule requires 60 votes to pass most bills, and in today’s Senate, which is split 50-50, that means many of the Democrats’ biggest priorities, from voting rights to gun control, are dead on arrival.
Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have frustrated their party by their defense of the filibuster. But they aren’t alone, with as many as 10 Democratic senators also reluctant to change the rules.
President Joe Biden this past week used the 100th anniversary of Tulsa’s race massacre to make a plea for legislation to protect the right to vote, which comes as Republican-led administrations in Texas and other states pass new restrictions making it tougher to cast ballots. Biden also seemed to call out Manchin and Sinema for stalling action on voting measures, though he has not said he wants to end the filibuster.
Biden said the right to vote was “precious” and must be protected, and pledged that June would be a “month of action” on Capitol Hill. “We’re not giving up,” Biden said. “I’m going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has promised to block the elections bill, which he characterizes as undue government overreach into state election systems. He said no GOP senators support it.
“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act,” Manchin wrote. “Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”
In March, House Democrats passed the voting bill by a near party-line 220-210 vote. The legislation would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, eliminate hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a campaign finance system that allows wealthy donors to anonymously bankroll political causes.
The measure has been a priority for Democrats since they won their House majority in 2018. But it has taken on added urgency in the wake of President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election, which incited the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Manchin was interviewed Sunday on “Fox News Sunday” and “Face the Nation” on CBS.
Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), in an op-ed published Sunday, explained why he will not be supporting the left’s controversial “For the People Act” — the House-passed bill which would strip states of their ability to implement basic election safeguards, effectively nationalizing U.S. elections — prompting anger and frustration among far-left Democrats who are accusing him of helping the GOP “preserve white power in America.”
The moderate Democrat, whom progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) has described as “the new Mitch McConnell,” detailed his opposition to the bill, contending that “voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.”
“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act,” he explained, assuring he will also not vote to “weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”
“I think it will divide us further,” Manchin said during an appearance on Fox News, defending his decision. “I don’t want to be in a country divided any further than I’m in right now.”
Prominent progressives swiftly lashed out. After calling him “the new Mitch McConnell,” Bowman, accused the West Virginia Democrat of “doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist”:
Joe Manchin is the new Mitch McConnell.
His obstruction of President Biden’s agenda doesn’t serve the American people, Republican or Democrat. It serves corporate interests. pic.twitter.com/ityKikPC8k
— Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) June 7, 2021
Far-left “Squad” member Ilhan Omar (D-MN) also weighed in, concluding that Republicans do not support the election overhaul because it “gets in the way of Republican plans to undermine elections”:
The reason this bill has no Republican support is because it gets in the way of Republican plans to undermine elections.
This bill protects our democracy from Republican attempts to dismantle it. https://t.co/I2ES955i1q
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) June 7, 2021
Left-wing MSNBC host Joy Reid asked:
Is there any point to the @NAACP and other civil rights groups meeting with @Sen_JoeManchin at this point? Wouldn’t that be roughly like having MLK sit down with ole Strom Thurmond to discuss the filibuster and the Voting Rights Act in 1965? Manchin has told y’all who he is.
— Joy-Ann (Pro-Democracy) Reid 😷 (@JoyAnnReid) June 7, 2021
Democrat David Weissman said:
Everything that I learned about what a Democrat stood for, makes me wonder why Joe Manchin is a member of our party? Why can’t he understand that Republicans do not want bipartisanship, they want to control and he continues to give them what they want?
— David Weissman (@davidmweissman) June 7, 2021
Republicans are one step closer to destroying our Democracy thanks to @Sen_JoeManchin.
— Scott Huffman #Vaccinated (@HuffmanForNC) June 7, 2021
Progressive talk show host Thom Hartmann concluded that the GOP is “fighting to preserve white power in America,” adding that Manchin “just joined their side”:
The GOP is fighting to preserve white power in America. Joe Manchin just joined their side. https://t.co/oU4izidhFm
— Thom Hartmann (@Thom_Hartmann) June 7, 2021
Even pop superstar Cher jumped in the mix, deeming Manchin a traitor:
Joe Manchin & Kirsten Gillibrand Aren’t Democrats They’re TRAITORS.If There Is Any Way 4 NEW YORKERS 2 KICK HER OUT OF SENATE They Must Try Be4 She Hands Our Country 2 trump & His Criminals. These Fake Democrats Are Single Handedly Sabotaging PRES.BIDEN’S Plans 2 Help🇺🇸’n Ppl
— Cher (@cher) June 7, 2021
The For the People Act, which passed in the Democrat-led House in early March, would essentially overhaul the U.S. election system, stripping states of their ability to implement basic election integrity safeguards, such as voter ID requirements or bans on ballot harvesting.
The bill also provides protection for illegal aliens who are registered to vote, prevents states from purging ineligible voters from rolls, and makes nationwide vote-by-mail without photo ID a reality.
Twenty attorneys general signed a letter at the time of the bill’s passage, warning they will “seek legal remedies to protect the Constitution, the sovereignty of all states, our elections, and the rights of our citizens” if the bill becomes a law.