Manchin has for months opposed efforts to end the filibuster, but that seems to have only intensified liberal impatience to kill it.
With the 60-vote threshold needed in a 50-50 Senate, Republicans blocked a bill to establish a commission to study the January 6 insurrection, remain positioned to stop election legislation, have a negotiating advantage in infrastructure talks and have ensured Biden has no room for error when it comes to his nominations — including a possible Supreme Court appointment.
“We now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized,” Manchin wrote in a Charleston Gazette opinion essay. “Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage.”
In case anyone missed the message, Manchin added: “I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”
But whether anyone will listen to Manchin’s call for bipartisanship on voting is another question entirely. Republicans are not going to see congressional Democrats’ inability to act on voting as anything less than a green light to keep moving in statehouses.
To be sure, liberal hopes that Manchin would kill the filibuster — and convince other skeptics like Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to come along — for the voting rights bill were a long shot to begin with. Manchin seemed no closer this past week to opposing the filibuster than he had in the months prior — yet the “what if” questions never stopped.
And they never will.
Manchin remains at the center of Democratic efforts to build a bridge with Republicans on infrastructure legislation, where if a bipartisan deal can’t be reached, talk immediately goes back to going around the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation with likely only Democratic support.
Maine Independent Sen. Angus King on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday pointed to ongoing bipartisan efforts on efforts to advance science and technology grants as “a good example of how we can work together.”
Yet the ultimate barometer of the state of Congress, King said, is infrastructure.
“I think the infrastructure bill is a good test because, listen, there’s not a lot of policy there. This is just numbers,” King told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “It’s helping the country and we ought to be able to find a resolution on that. If we can’t, that spells trouble.”
How far can infrastructure talks go?
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm touted the White House’s efforts on bipartisan negotiations that have involved GOP senators like West Virginia’s Shelly Moore Capito and Utah’s Mitt Romney. But as the White House said all along, they don’t want things to go on forever — while not setting a firm deadline.
“It is frustrating that there’s not more coming together on this. But as the President’s red line, as you have heard, that inaction is red line. So there will be action. We’re just hopeful that we can see it in a bipartisan way. That would be good for the country,” Granholm said on “State of the Union” in a separate interview on Sunday.
“Ultimately, we have to get to 10 Republican votes to be able to pass this in regular order,” Granholm added. “That’s the hope.”
But as with everything in the Senate, it returns to Manchin. Granholm visited West Virginia last week and said the Democratic senator appreciates the need for a bill.
“I know that he sees the faces of people who need these investments too. And he is — he is, in the end, he represents a state that needs to be able to move forward economically and these investments will help his state,” Granholm said. “You would have to ask him about where his bottom line is and how long we have to try to be able to get Republican support.”
Manchin, for his part, emphasized Sunday that he backs the President and wants to stay the course.
“I believe Joe Biden is the right person, the right place, the right time for our country,” Manchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Now we have to unite together and that means a little bit of difficulties and challenges, but we will get through it. We are the most deliberate body in the world and that was by design.”
The talks, he said, have already borne fruit.
“My goodness, the President has gone from 2.25 trillion down to $1 trillion,” he said “The Republicans have come up quite a bit from where they started.”
Voting rights and the Big Lie
Manchin didn’t only target congressional Democrats this weekend. He also went after Republicans in statehouses seemingly following former President Donald Trump’s complaints about the 2020 election to enact voting restrictions.
“Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it,” Manchin wrote in his Charleston Gazette essay.
The senator reiterated his support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a far less sweeping bill than the majority of Democrats are supporting. It would bring back major pieces of the 1965 Voting Rights Act including a provision that requires states to consult with the federal government before making major changes to their voting rules.
Manchin’s overall veto, however, simply keeps the status quo of the voting wars in place.
Trump, who started the “Big Lie” that millions of votes were somehow illegally cast for Biden, has no intention of stopping his crusade.
Fourteen states have enacted at least 22 new laws restricting voting this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
The 2020 election, Trump told North Carolina Republicans Saturday night, will “go down as the crime of the century.” He praised Arizona Republicans who pushed for a dubious audit of ballots from Maricopa County, the state’s largest, and backed GOP-led efforts to do the same elsewhere.
And liberal and voting rights groups plan to ratchet up pressure on Democrats in the Senate to do whatever it takes to pass the federal voting legislation, CNN’s Fredreka Schouten reported Sunday.
“We are all going to be intensifying our campaigns to make the case to the Senate that For the People Act needs to pass one way or another,” said Adam Bozzi, vice president of communications for End Citizens United/Let America Vote. The group plans to contact 2 million voters ahead of this month’s Senate vote as part of a $30 million campaign.