Politics

Manchin On Election Bills: The Law Already Protects Voting Rights

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While speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) rejected his party’s notion that tougher state-level election laws would obstruct voting rights, a bad sign for Democrats hoping to sway Manchin into weakening the filibuster.

After a string of policy failures for President Joe Biden before Congress’ winter recess Democrats, looking for some victory in advance of a midterm season that is expected to go in Republicans’ favor, made a frantic push to finally pass election legislation.

Because all 50 Senate Republicans have opposed Democratic election proposals, the majority party had little hope of passing any partisan elections bill through the normal processes of the Senate. To get the bills through the Senate without GOP support, Democrats recognized that they would have to weaken or abolish the filibuster.

After a week of what filibuster-proponent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) described as “harried discussions” on how to achieve this end, Sinema and Manchin announced their unilateral opposition to the scheme.

Manchin and Sinema, two moderates who have often allied against the rest of their caucus, both defended the filibuster in statements.

“While I continue to support these [elections] bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division affecting our country,” Sinema told her colleagues on the Senate floor in a quavering voice.

In his own statement on the debate, Manchin wrote, “Allowing one party to exert complete control in the Senate with only a simple majority will only pour fuel onto the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart. Especially,” he added, “when one party controls both Congress and the White House.”

“As such, and as I have said many times before, I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Manchin said.

While Sinema made clear that she supported election reform if handled through the normal Senate processes, Manchin indicated in a Tuesday statement that he was far less certain about the need for such wide-reaching reform.

A reporter asked Manchin how he would respond to claims that some have made that he is threatening people’s right to vote by opposing a filibuster carve-out. The West Virginia Democrat vigorously refuted the charge, arguing that federal laws are already in place to protect the right to vote.

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“The law is there the rules are there and basically the government, the government will stand behind [eligible voters] and make sure they have a right to vote,” Manchin responded.

He also argued that recent litigation has shown that the law still works to correct genuine problems. “The things they’re talking about now are in court. The courts have struck down [violations of voting rights] … like in Ohio, they struck down gerrymandering,” Manchin said, referencing a decision by Ohio’s Supreme Court to strike down a newly defined district that the court ruled as gerrymander… (Read more)

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