Manchin Says Any Overhaul of Voting Rights Must Have GOP Support
(Bloomberg) -- Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said any voting-rights legislation must be bipartisan to be accepted as legitimate by U.S. voters, complicating the path to passing a bill that is a top goal of Democratic leaders but opposed by Republicans.
At issue is S. 1, the Senate counterpart to a House-passed bill that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said is crucial to counter efforts in Republican-led states to set new limits on voter access.
While some Democrats say the Senate bill is so essential for American democracy that they are willing to force it through on a party-line vote, Manchin said any overhaul of election laws should be limited to what at least some Republicans also support.
“We should not at all attempt to do anything to that will create more distrust and division,” Manchin told reporters on Wednesday. “So I think there’s enough good that we can all come together. That’s what we should work on.”
The West Virginia Democrat’s independent streak is posing challenges for Schumer in a Senate split 50-50 between the parties as he tries to push through President Joe Biden’s agenda. Manchin has also resisted pressure to end the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to act on most legislation.
Schumer is eying the voting-rights legislation as a test case for how Republicans will use the filibuster to block Democratic priorities. Senator Dick Durbin, Schumer’s chief deputy, has challenged Republicans who defend the filibuster to prove that it can work by voting with Democrats on bills for gun control and infrastructure that are popular with voters.
Manchin’s demand for bipartisanship came the same day that Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell squared off in front of the the Rules Committee about S. 1, which would make it significantly easier to vote, limit gerrymandering of congressional districts, require third-party political groups to reveal secret donors and overhaul the Federal Election Commission, among other changes.
The Democrat-led House passed its version of the bill March 3 on a 220-210 vote.
Schumer said to voting laws proposed by Republicans in Georgia, Pennsylvania and other states “smack of Jim Crow rearing its ugly head again.” He said the Senate voting-rights bill could counter what he described as threats to democracy.
Speaking later on the Senate floor, Schumer hinted at his willingness to challenge Republicans on the filibuster over this measure.
“We will not let this stand,” he said of state laws curtailing voting rights. “We will not let this stand. S. 1 will pass this body.”
McConnell told the Rules Committee that the bill “is a solution in search of a problem” since it comes after an election with record voter turnout. He said Democrats seek to “forcibly rewrite” state and local laws with new approaches that give Democratic candidates advantages.
“This legislation isn’t ready for prime time,” the Kentucky Republican said. “It’s an invitation for chaos.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.