The Slatest

Manchin Says He Won’t Back Democrats’ Sweeping Voting Rights Bill

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks with reporters after stepping off the Senate Floor at the U.S. Capitol on May 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks with reporters after stepping off the Senate Floor at the U.S. Capitol on May 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin said Sunday he will vote against a sweeping voting rights and ethics bill that has been a top priority among Democratic leaders to push back against Republican efforts to impose fresh voting restrictions across the country. In an op-ed piece for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Manchin said he can’t support the bill, known as the For the People Act, because it is too partisan. “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,” the senator from West Virginia wrote. “The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.”

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The House had approved the For the People Act in March in a 220-210 vote without any Republican support. The measure would, among other things, allow voters to register online or on Election Day, mandate 15 days of early voting, limit the ability of states to block mail-in voting and also rewrite federal campaign finance rules. Democratic leaders had made clear that the bill was a top priority as it became a catchall for several liberal priorities on voting rights but had recently become nervous about Manchin’s lack of support for the initiative. Without his backing, the bill seems destined to fail in the evenly-split Senate.

In the op-ed, Manchin reiterated his objection to ending the filibuster rule. “Some Democrats have again proposed eliminating the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass the For the People Act with only Democratic support. They’ve attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past,” Manchin wrote. “I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”

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Rather than For the People Act, Manchin said he would support another voting reform bill, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. That measure, which also has the backing of GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, would involve a broad rewrite of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and is being touted as a bipartisan alternative to the bill that the House approved. “I continue to engage with my Republican and Democratic colleagues about the value of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and I am encouraged by the desire from both sides to transcend partisan politics and strengthen our democracy by protecting voting rights,” Manchin wrote.

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