Progressives in and out of Congress are lashing out at Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia after the Democrat wrote Sunday that he will oppose his party’s sweeping elections bill and won’t vote to end the legislative filibuster in the Senate.
Manchin’s stances are not new. He is the only Democrat in the Senate who is not a co-sponsor of Democrats’ elections bill, titled the “For the People Act.” And despite appearing to waver on his opposition to filibuster changes earlier this year, he’s since dug in against any alterations to the minority protection in the upper chamber.
But his comments in a Charleston Gazette-Mail op-ed Sunday and in a “Fox News Sunday” interview provoked renewed outrage from progressive Democrats who want to plow ahead on a wide range of legislation, including the elections bill, without consulting Senate Republicans.
“Manchin’s op-ed might as well be titled, ‘Why I’ll vote to preserve Jim Crow,'” Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., tweeted. “If there aren’t 10 Republicans willing to investigate an insurrection that almost claimed their lives, there aren’t 10 Republicans willing to protect the right to vote.”
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The For the People Act, numbered S.1 in the Senate, would dramatically expand the federal government’s role in elections. It would ban states from requiring photo ID to vote; raise barriers for states to clear voter rolls; require states to offer drop boxes 45 days before an election, and much more.
One provision Republicans say is particularly unfair would change the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from a six-member body with three members from each party to a five-member body with two from each party and a fifth person unassociated with either party but picked by the president. Democrats say this would allow the FEC to more effectively do its job while Republicans say it would put the president’s party at an advantage.
But despite the controversy over many S.1 provisions, Democrats say the Senate needs to end the filibuster and pass it in order to combat GOP-backed election security laws being passed in states.
“389 bills introduced in 48 states to prevent Americans from voting. 14 of them have already passed, including one in TX that banned ‘souls to the polls’ led by Black churches,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., tweeted. “If this isn’t enough for @Sen_JoeManchin to support #ForThePeopleAct then he’s the one being partisan.”
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“The Republican Party has launched an unprecedented war on American democracy in which shamefully they are now being aided and abetted by at least two Democratic senators… Joe Manchin thinks voting fundamental. He says voting is fundamental. But he doesn’t want to do what needs to be done to save it,” MSNBC’s Medhi Hasan said.
“Joe Manchin is doing everything in his power to stop democracy and to stop our work for the people,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., told CNN Monday morning.
Manchin, however, argued Democrats’ bill is “too broad and too partisan” on “Fox News Sunday.” He added that “there’s an awful lot of things [in the bill] that basically don’t pertain directly to voting.”
Manchin also reminded Democrats in his Charleston Gazette-Mail op-ed that the filibuster “has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past” and that Democrats “just four short years ago… were proudly defending the filibuster.”
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That didn’t satisfy Democrats, however. Bowman accused Manchin of “serving a corporate agenda.”
“We need to dispense of the myth that ‘bipartisanship’ serves Republican voters or constituents,” Bowman tweeted Sunday morning. “Who it really serves are corporate donors and special interests.”
Bowman then claimed his office “reached out to Senator Manchin multiple times to discuss how we can best serve the American people” but Manchin hadn’t replied.
“Sen. Manchin isn’t interested in engaging in a conversation on the filibuster. He’s interested in serving a corporate agenda,” Bowman added.
Even a staffer for the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate registered her displeasure with Manchin.
“All I’m saying is I don’t think our founding fathers anticipated the survival of this democratic experiment to rest in the hands of a man who lives in a house boat,” Jenna Valle-Riestra, the press secretary for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., tweeted. She deleted the tweet, but Fox News captured a screenshot. Valle-Riestra also locked her Twitter account and scrubbed information from her bio indicating that she works for Durbin.
Durbin’s office later said he “and Manchin are friends. They’re working closely together on many important issues. Any other interpretation misreads the relationship.”
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With Manchin dug in against changes to the filibuster, Republicans will almost certainly have the ability to block any bill they are united against for the rest of President Biden’s term. That led “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace to press Manchin on if he is being “naive” about the potential for bipartisanship in an extremely polarized political environment.
“I don’t think so, because we have seven brave Republicans that continue to vote for what they know is right and the facts as they see them, not worrying about the political consequences,” Manchin said, referring to the seven Republicans who voted to convict former President Trump in his impeachment trial. “I believe there’s a lot more of my Republican colleagues and friends that feel the same way.”
Manchin added that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is “100% wrong in trying to block all the good things that we’re trying to do for America,” but “I’m going to continue working with my bipartisan friends and hopefully we can get more of them.”
Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche and Andrew Kugle contributed to this report.