Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Sunday said he won’t vote for his party’s For the People Act, a bill focused on expanding voting rights. His decision all but dooms Democrats’ push for comprehensive election reform.
In an opinion piece published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Manchin criticized the bill as “partisan” and suggested he would only support legislation that garnered Republican support.
“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act,” Manchin wrote.
The bill ― co-sponsored by every Senate Democrat except for Manchin ― would require states to implement election reforms including early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots, and automatic and same-day voter registration. It would also restore voting rights to ex-felons while making it harder to purge voter rolls, among many other things.
The proposed legislation passed through the House in March on a nearly party-line vote. Last month, the bill advanced out of the Senate Rules Committee, with Republicans remaining universally opposed to it.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said recently that his chamber would vote on the bill this month, but Manchin’s announcement leaves little hope for its passage.
Manchin’s position as a moderate Democrat, often seen as a swing vote on key measures, has made him one of Congress’ most powerful figures as President Joe Biden seeks to move forward with his legislative agenda.
The Senate is essentially split along party lines, with 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents who reliably vote with Democrats. In a tied vote, Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the tie-breaking vote.
With Republicans’ unwavering opposition, the For the People Act is expected to face a Senate filibuster ― a procedural rule that requires the support of 60 senators to move to a vote on final passage for many measures. That means the bill is essentially dead on arrival unless Democrats change the Senate’s filibuster rules.
But Manchin has remained opposed to such a move and in his opinion piece, he stated that he “will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”
“For as long as I have the privilege of being your U.S. senator,” he wrote, “I will fight to represent the people of West Virginia, to seek bipartisan compromise no matter how difficult and to develop the political bonds that end divisions and help unite the country we love.”
In the piece, Manchin denounced both “state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting” as well as “politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections.”
“[C]ongressional 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,” Manchin wrote.
But at the state level, Republicans have seized on former President Donald Trump’s lies about a “stolen” election by moving to pass restrictive voter laws. At least 14 states have enacted laws this year that make it harder to vote.