OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Senate Democrats have reached an agreement on a new set of federal voting rules again, but this time it is more worrisome for Republicans because a key Democrat is on board.
In fact, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has not been a fan of previous voting bills, spearheaded this effort along with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and a group of cosponsors, NPR reported.
The package is the latest attempt by Democrats to counteract Republican-led measures at the state level to restrict voting access and alter election administration.
The new legislation, unveiled Tuesday morning by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and several cosponsors, builds off a framework proposed by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who had opposed an earlier, sweeping measure from his party.
Along with Manchin, the new bill’s cosponsors are Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Jon Tester of Montana, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Alex Padilla of California, along with Maine independent Sen. Angus King.
Republicans have been united in opposition to what they call a federal takeover of state election policy. With an evenly divided Senate, a GOP filibuster stands in Democrats’ way, and their effort would fall short of the 60 votes needed to move the measure forward.
The Freedom to Vote Act, which is the name of the new legislation, has many of the same things that the For the People Act, which was filibustered by Republicans, had.
The bill has provisions to create a national holiday for Election Day, require same-day voter registration in every state, place a ban on partisan gerrymandering, and sets minimum federal standards for elections.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our Democracy and the Freedom to Vote Act is a step in the right direction towards protecting that right for every American,” Sen. Manchin said. “As elected officials, we also have an obligation to restore [people’s] faith in our Democracy, and I believe that the commonsense provisions in this bill — like flexible voter ID requirements — will do just that.”
“The entire voting rights working group, including Senators Manchin and Merkley,” Sen. Klobuchar said, “is united behind legislation that will set basic national standards to make sure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them, regardless of what zip code they live in.”
The issue for Democrats, even as they are united on this new legislation, is that Sen. Manchin has said he would not get rid of the filibuster and that means Republicans can stop this bill from passing.
Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, Manchin said that he “can’t imagine” supporting making a single exception to the rule to pass the Democrats’ wide-ranging elections and campaign finance reform bill. The bill remains a top priority for both the Biden administration and the Democrats.
“I can’t imagine a carve-out,” the moderate Democratic senator said on “State of the Union” when asked if he could back such an effort, Fox News reported.
In June, Senate Republicans successfully employed the rule to block the Democrats’ voting rights bill, which Republicans argue would impair election integrity. Democrats are demanding reforms in response to moves by 18 Republican-controlled legislatures to pass laws on election integrity. Democrats argue that the Republicans are trying to impede minorities from casting votes – effectively a voter suppression tool. Though the claim is highly contentious, what remains true is that Democrats have been unable to prevent the 18 states from passing election integrity laws.
Speaking to CNN, Manchin explained his opposition to the possibility of a filibuster exemption, and pointed to previous carve-outs.
“I was here in 2013 when it was called a carve-out, we’re just going to do the cabinet for the President, and then it went into we’re going to do the judges who are lifetime appointments for circuit and district,” he said.
“They really want to do Supreme Court, but they didn’t at that time the Democrats were in control. 2017, (Senate GOP leader) Mitch McConnell’s in control, comes right back in and guess what, that carve out worked to really carve us up pretty bad. Then you got the Supreme Court, okay, so there’s no stopping it,” Manchin stated.