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Manchin Threatens to Upend the Democrats' Drive for Electoral Dominance

Senate Television via AP

Joe Biden and the Democrats must be nearly at their wit’s end about Sen. Joe Manchin. The West Virginia moderate has blown up the radicals’ plans to jack up the minimum wage, end the filibuster, and is refusing to vote for a reconciliation bill on infrastructure. Manchin is insisting on bipartisan agreement on all those issues before he would support them, making hash of the radical’s plans to ram the measures down the throats of Republicans.

Democratic radicals are already plotting his electoral demise, except Manchin won’t be on the ballot again until 2024. In the meantime, Manchin has the president and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pulling out their hair in frustration — what little they have of it.

Manchin’s insistence on bipartisanship should not be mistaken for any love he holds for the GOP. He’s a Democratic partisan through and through. But he’s a rare bird in Congress who actually wants to get things done for his constituents and the country. And he realizes that accomplishing anything in a closely divided Congress means playing ball with the other side.

Now Manchin is threatening to blow up the Democrats’ number one priority; the so-called “voting rights” bill. The bill would federalize local elections, get rid of voter ID, and ban every common-sense measure to maintain the integrity of the vote. But Manchin wants a far less sweeping bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. There are still several objectionable parts to that bill, but it wouldn’t federalize elections or dictate to states how they should ensure the integrity of the vote.

“I believe Democrats and Republicans feel very strongly about protecting the ballot boxes allowing people to protect the right to vote making it accessible making it fair and making it secure and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, if we apply that to all 50 states and territories, it’s something that can be done — it should be done,” Manchin told ABC News. “It could be done bipartisan to start getting confidence back in our system.”

Manchin said Tuesday’s mark-up made clear to him that the robust Democratic bill, which he has already said he does not support, has no hope of mustering the necessary 60 votes to pass.

“No matter what was brought up it was partisan vote, 9-9,” Manchin said. “This is one of the most — I think — important things that we can do to try to bring our country back together and if we do it in a partisan way, it’s not going to be successful I believe.”

The John Lewis version of voting rights would restore Justice Department oversight of elections in some southern states. That’s a non-starter for most Republicans. But limited oversight by the DoJ might be acceptable to enough Republicans to pass it.

Manchin wants to try.

Manchin encouraged the normal use of the committee and amendment process. He called use of that process on the For the People Act encouraging but said Democrats ought to look to where they can move forward with common ground.

“If you have another pathway forward why don’t you take that?” he said.

Manchin has met with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, and Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in recent weeks to discuss his stance on the Senate filibuster.

Manchin is no rebel with a cause. He wants Biden to succeed. He wants to keep the Senate in Democratic hands. But he knows he’s in a unique, even historic position to put his imprint on important legislation.

And he plans to make the most of it while he can.