Senate Democrats have been crafting a revised voting rights bill that Sen. Joe Manchin might deign to vote for, particularly since he is in the group that’s working on it. The Rev. Sen. Raphael Warnock asked Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to convene the group to rewrite the bill, he told The Washington Post, and he, Schumer, Manchin and a few other senators met Wednesday. Further, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are meeting with President Joe Biden on Friday to discuss moving forward on voting rights, perhaps before August recess.
"It's important that the American people understand that this is very much on our radar, and we understand the urgency, and we're committed to getting some progress," Warnock said. Manchin added, "Everybody's working in good faith on this … It's everybody's input, not just mine, but I think mine, maybe … got us all talking and rolling in the direction that we had to go back to basics," he said. Other Democrats in the meeting included Sens. Alex Padilla of California; Oregon's Jeff Merkley, who is lead sponsor of the For the People Act in the Senate; and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, chair of the committee in charge of the bill.
A Democrat who did not wish to be named told the Post that the bill would largely follow the proposal for revisions Manchin put forward last month. It could also potentially include language to strengthen the Voting Rights Act, restoring provisions gutted by recent Supreme Court decisions. It's not clear now whether it would incorporate the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, or just some provisions from it. That bill hasn't been acted on in the House yet.
The same source also told the Post that it could include language to counter "election subversion"—specifically the kind of action the Republican legislature in Georgia is trying to pull by taking over the duties of elections officials in the state's largest—and most Black—county.
Manchin putting in this work could mean that there’s not room in Manchin's head to consider a carve-out of the filibuster for voting rights legislation. There's been a definite push from the so-called moderates on the idea recently. That includes Sen. Mark Warner, who said on Sunday, "If we have to do a small carve out on filibuster for voting rights—that is the only area where I'd allow that kind of reform." He had previously said, "When it comes to fundamental issues like protecting Americans from draconian efforts attacking their constitutional right to vote, it would be a mistake to take any option off the table."
Reiterating that now certainly puts more pressure on Manchin. So does this: Former Sen. Doug Jones, a courageous, principled Democrat who was an ally of Manchin in the Senate, is calling for Democrats to pass voting rights protections "with or without Republicans," and lauding Manchin for proposing "a set of practical measures that all members, including Republicans, should support."
Jones even proposes that the new bill be called "Manchin Plus," arguing that senators should include a number of essential provisions to Manchin's proposal, including same-day voter registration and "mandatory voter-verified paper ballots and robust post-election audits that can reliably confirm election results, coupled with protections for voters with disabilities." And if Republicans don't agree, Jones writes, "Democratic senators, including my friend Joe Manchin, must do what is necessary to enact these critical protections: Institute a filibuster exception for voting-rights legislation before the August recess, so a Manchin Plus package can become federal law."
It isn't out of the realm of possibility that Manchin could consider this carve-out. Manchin has had the experience of having Republicans unanimously filibuster his efforts to restore voting rights. That should be enough to convince him that he’s not going to find the 10 good people he needs in the Republican conference.
Of course, that still leaves Kyrsten Sinema, who seems absolutely intent on being as obnoxious as possible in not just her actions, but the timing of her actions. For example, on the eve of that vote on voting rights, she defended her obstruction on filibuster reform in an op-ed in The Washington Post. But if Manchin comes around on the filibuster, for voting rights if nothing else, she won't have any Democratic cover anymore.