The Democratic Senate failed the people of the state of Texas. Specifically, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin failed them. The Texas House passed new voting restrictions Thursday night in a bill that would ban drive-thru early voting; ban 24-hour early voting locations by setting limits of 6 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m.; add new voter ID requirements for absentee voting; prohibit local officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications to voters; prohibit using public funds to help third parties send unsolicited absentee ballots; and enable partisan "poll watchers" to harass and intimidate voters, while limiting their oversight by imposing criminal penalties on election officials for attempting to prevent poll watchers from interfering with voters.
Dozens of state House Democrats left the state last month to deny a quorum and block it from going forward. They came to Washington, D.C., to plead with lawmakers, to "beg for federal protection," in the words of Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia.
That plea fell on willfully deaf ears—specifically, Manchin's stubborn refusal to hear. After meeting with the Texas legislators, who described to him all the blatantly racist things the Republicans in their state were intending, he said the "filibuster doesn't need" a special carveout to allow voting rights issues to pass with a simple majority. “There is nothing about the filibuster," he told reporters and insisted a basic voting rights bill will get Republican support. The very next day, he headed to Texas for a $5,800-a-head fundraiser, "with a host committee that includes several wealthy Republican donors."
"We invite you to join us for a special evening supporting our friend, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin," the invitation said, signed by the hosts who are titans of the Texas oil and gas industry. They went on to call Manchin "a longtime friend since his days as Governor of West Virginia." The Texas Tribune reported "Among the hosts are oil billionaires like Jeff Hildebrand, who cofounded the energy company Hilcorp and Richard Kinder, a cofounder of Kinder Morgan, an energy infrastructure company."
The law is going to pass the Texas legislature after passing in the state Senate earlier this month. Democrat Carol Alvarado fought it the only way she could, ironically with a filibuster. A real one, where she stood without for 15 hours, without water or even leaning against her desk. Manchin won't even demand that of his colleagues, who are painlessly preventing voting rights legislation from advancing.
It's not an issue, he says. It's not an issue that the filibuster is blatantly racist and is allowing blatantly racist state legislatures to strip the voting rights of Black and brown Americans. How do you know it's racist? The Speaker of the Texas House felt the need to ask his colleagues not to call out the racism in the bill. Seriously. On the floor Thursday, Speaker Dade Phelan said, "the Chair would appreciate members not using the word 'racism'" in the debate over the bill.
The Jim Crow filibuster—supported by Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—is protecting these racist Republicans in the states. No one is better than Sen. Elizabeth Warren at explaining how the filibuster works and how it bolsters white supremacy.
But her colleagues persist in helping the Republicans obstruct not just voting rights but everything that could help alleviate the racial, social, and economic inequality in our society. At some point, every Democratic senator who is not Manchin or Sinema will have to step up and start calling those two out. It's now incumbent upon every Senate Democrat to do something about the fact that they can lose when they have a majority. That means challenging every cloture vote, the procedural vote that requires 60 votes to allow a bill onto the floor, that loses even when it has a majority.
And it's now incumbent on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to do more than make declarations about how 'everything is on the table' to pass voting rights legislation and act. If that means telling Joe Manchin his Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources chair is in jeopardy—the chair that makes him such a great friend of the Republican oil and gas titans of Texas—so be it.