Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) blasted Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Wednesday after they sided with Republicans against changing Senate filibuster rules, dooming Democrats’ efforts to pass voting rights legislation.
“It’s not just this vote. These are people who I think have undermined the president of the United States,” Sanders said.
“They have forced us to have five months of discussions that have gone absolutely nowhere. I think it’s up to the people in their own states,” he added, when asked by reporters on Capitol Hill whether he supported efforts to primary his colleagues.
Manchin and Sinema, two moderate Democrats, supported legislation aimed at addressing the wave of restrictive voting laws in Republican-led states. But they refused to go a step further by supporting a change in Senate rules to advance the bill on a simple majority vote. Every Republican senator opposed the legislation, denying it the necessary 60 votes needed for passage.
“Eliminating the filibuster would be the easy way out,” Manchin said in a floor speech on Wednesday before the vote. “I cannot support such a perilous course.”
Sinema said in a statement that her vote affirmed “my longstanding opposition to separate actions that would deepen our divisions and risk repeated radical reversals in federal policy, cementing uncertainty and further eroding confidence in our government.
The senators’ positions sparked deep frustration within their party, with influential Democratic groups vowing not to support their reelection and progressives blaming the moderates for the failure to get anything done.
Manchin was heavily involved in crafting and selling the voting legislation to Republicans but ultimately wasn’t able to convince any GOP senator to vote to even advance the legislation despite months of debate.
Manchin also bucked his party last month on another big priority, the social-spending and climate package known as the Build Back Better Act. Democrats are now working on reviving the bill in a slimmed-down form in hopes of winning his support, but it’s unclear whether their renewed efforts will succeed. The White House has yet to get involved, and discussions with the senator haven’t begun yet.
“I’m confident we can get big chunks of the Build Back Better bill into law,” President Joe Biden said at a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, signaling plans to drastically scale back the measure.
With Biden’s approval numbers sinking and his legislative agenda stalled, his party faces daunting odds in this year’s midterm elections. Without another victory, the president could face a Congress controlled solely by Republicans, something that would make his life in office exceedingly more difficult.