Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., announced Sunday he will not vote for S.1, known as the “For The People Act,” which is the massive elections and ethics reform package Democrats have proposed.
His announcement immediately imperils the bill, which is universally opposed by Republicans and would require elimination of the Senate filibuster in order to be passed. The legislation was passed in the House earlier this year.
“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 more,” Manchin told “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t want to be in a country that’s divided any further.”
“I think there’s a lot of great things in that piece of legislation, but there’s an awful lot of things that basically don’t pertain directly to voting,” he said.
The legislation would force states to offer at least 15 days of early voting, universal access to mail-in voting and same-day registration for federal races. It would also make Election Day a national holiday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised a vote soon on the legislation — which counts the other 49 Democratic senators as co-sponsors — along with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would allow the federal government to review discriminatory voting laws. Manchin said he supports the latter legislation and would want “pre-clearance” for new election laws expanded to all 50 states — not just southern states that had a history of segregation.
The debate over the legislation comes as Republican legislatures across the country have passed new voting laws along partisan lines in light of former President Donald Trump’s months-long campaign of falsehoods about the 2020 election.
In a Charleston Gazette-Mail op-ed Manchin authored and was published Sunday, he argued that any voting legislation passed at the federal level must have bipartisan backing and that he will not vote to kill the legislative filibuster, as some have said is necessary for passing new voting reforms.
“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,” he wrote. “And I cannot explain [to West Virginians] strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party’s agenda.”
Some Democrats quickly criticized Manchin’s decision.
“Manchin’s op-ed might as well be titled, ‘Why I’ll vote to preserve Jim Crow,” Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., tweeted.
“We didn’t need an op-ed to know you’re unwilling to protect our democracy,” Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., tweeted.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, tweeted that with U.S. democracy “unraveling” at “breakneck speed,” she “can’t understand the Dems contributing to that demise by failing to respond urgently to voter suppression laws happening in states like mine.”
Elsewhere, in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said he did not support the “For the People Act” as written, adding he’s open to modifications. As for the filibuster, King said “in general” he is against its elimination.
“I’m very reluctant about it,” he said. “But if it comes down to voting rights and the rights of Americans to go to the polls and select their leaders vs. the filibuster, I will choose democracy.”
And in a Sunday statement, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said he was “disappointed” in Manchin’s position, but said he too is open to altering the legislation.
“[I]n the face of a coup attempt incited by a president trying to overturn an election and a nationwide attempt to ensure that the will of the voters does not determine the outcome of future elections, I am dead set against doing nothing,” he said.
“As I have told all my colleagues many times, I am open to any conversation about the provisions of this bill, and will not give up on American democracy.”