Senator Joe Manchin signaled his desire for a compromise on the “For the People Act” — the Democrats’ massive voting reform and campaign finance reform bill.
Republicans see the bill as a naked power grab by Democrats. The bill would federalize elections, repeal state election integrity laws, reimpose the Voting Rights Act in places where it isn’t necessary, and invite fraud. It would also rig political fundraising to the Democrats’ advantage.
Manchin supports several significant changes in the bill and demands that it be a bipartisan effort before he signs on. He also opposes any changes to the filibuster to get it passed.
Manchin’s compromise proposal include changes to both bills. He supports making Election Day a public holiday, offering 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections and automatic voter registration through state departments of motor vehicles.
He also proposes requiring voter identification but allowing alternatives like utility bills to suffice as proof of identity.
“Congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials,” he wrote.
Manchin’s fellow Democrats applauded his move.
“I think he’s making a really valuable contribution by being engaged on such important issues like defending the right and freedom of every American to vote,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the lead sponsor of S.1, told reporters Wednesday ahead of an anticipated vote on the legislation next week.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., an outspoken voice on the issue, said he is “hopeful that we will find a way forward” that includes winning Manchin’s vote on election rules, saying he has spoken to him about the issue.
“We’ve got to find a way to get voting rights, period,” he told NBC News in a recent interview. “Is there room for compromise and conversation? Absolutely.”
Any mention of election integrity has been met with hysterical opposition among Democrats and charges of racism when Republicans support it. It’s significant that Democrats never mentioned Manchin’s support for voter ID. It’s a dead issue to them.
Manchin supports another, far less ambitious election reform bill — the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. That legislation passed the House last year but with Republicans in control of the Senate, it went nowhere in the upper body. That bill reimposes the Voting Rights Act and offers little in the way of election integrity measures. But it was crafted before the Democrats’ majority was set and has largely been set aside by Democrats as they go for the brass ring with the For the People Act. Passage of that act would virtually ensure Democratic majorities far into the future.
It could be that Manchin has offered these “compromises” knowing that most Democrats would reject them. But it would relieve some of the pressure on him from his own party to get back in line and march in lockstep. The West Virginia senator has been vilified by the radicals and even more mainstream Democrats have been taking shots at him.
By indicating he may be willing to deal, Manchin temporarily quiets his critics. But with absolutely no chance of any Republican support for voting rights reform, it doesn’t mean much in the long run.