Senate Republicans made clear on Thursday they oppose all Democratic ideas aiming to overhaul the nation’s voting systems ― even those proposed by moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Their hard-line stance against any federal voting legislation underscores that there is very little chance for a bipartisan outcome on the matter, which Manchin has been insisting on.
Manchin on Wednesday outlined the voting provisions he would support in the For the People Act, a sweeping package of voting rights, campaign finance, ethics and redistricting reforms. His “compromise” list ― which is designed to unite Democrats together more than anything ― includes things like expanding early voting, mandating automatic voter registration, making Election Day a holiday, and other measures intended to expand access to the ballot. It does not include other, more expansive things supported by his fellow Democrats, such as public financing of elections.
But if there was any chance of getting Republicans on board with a more narrow bill, those hopes were quickly dashed on Thursday. Appearing at a press conference with a dozen other GOP senators, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Manchin’s ideas “no compromise.”
“All Republicans will oppose that as well,” he said of Manchin’s narrower list of voting reforms.
In a statement issued prior to the press conference, McConnell said Manchin’s proposal “subverts the First Amendment to supercharge cancel culture and the left’s name-and-shame campaign model.”
Republicans were also quick to note that Democratic former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams had endorsed Manchin’s list of proposed voting changes, a way to dismiss the proposals as not actually bipartisan.
“When Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Manchin’s proposal, it became the Stacey Abrams’ substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said.
Republicans have now functionally killed both of Manchin’s ideas on voting ― the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a narrow measure that would restore the ability of the Justice Department to oversee state election law changes, and his latest “compromise” offer on the For the People Act.
But when asked about McConnell’s stance on Thursday, Manchin seemed undeterred.
“McConnell has a right to do whatever he thinks he can do. I would hope that there’s enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, fair, open election,” Manchin said, repeating a version of something he said before Republicans ultimately filibustered legislation to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
He expressed hope that bipartisan relationships forged in the Senate on other issues would ultimately help convince enough Republicans to support a voting bill.
“They’ll use those same connections and same relationships when we get into challenging areas right now with voting. I’m thinking they could reach out and help a little bit,” Manchin said.
Manchin has repeatedly vowed never to support eliminating the Senate filibuster, which stands in the way of passing legislation on voting rights, gun control, immigration, climate and a whole host of other priorities for Democrats. He’s shown no willingness to bend on the matter even as Republicans have rejected his efforts to forge bipartisan compromise.
The issue will come to a head next week when the Senate holds an initial vote to formally open debate on a voting bill. Democratic leaders have not said what kinds of changes, if any, they’ll make to the For the People Act, but it’s likely they will look something like what Manchin outlined this week. They’ll need his support to advance anything to the floor, and he indicated on Thursday that he would vote to proceed and at least start debate on the matter.
“I think we all want to do that,” Manchin said.
Even if Democrats ultimately win over Manchin, however, the bill is almost certainly going to be filibustered by Republicans.