' legislative priority appears doomed ahead of a key vote later this month, with Sen. Joe Manchin
(D-W.Va.) firmly opposed to his party's bill to prevent states
from restricting voting rights
But it isn't just Manchin who is concerned about the bill; Sen. Angus King of Maine
, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said on Sunday that he doesn't support it in its current form, despite being a co-sponsor.
“I believe some things can be changed,” King said on CNN
Even The New York Times
' left-wing editorial board argued over the weekend that Democrats should pass a narrower bill, calling their current proposal "poorly matched to the moment" and "attempts to achieve more than is currently feasible."
The “For the People Act
” would establish minimum standards for ballot access, such as automatic registration and no-excuse mail voting, which would preclude the changes being implemented by Republican-led state legislatures; however, the bill would also change campaign finance
and lobbying laws, which are less important to King.
“The most important thing for me is to protect voting rights,” King said in an interview
with CNN, “and I think that’s becoming more urgent by the day, based on what’s going on in the states.”
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, more than a dozen states have passed laws making it more difficult to vote since the 2020 election
, as Republican lawmakers institutionalize former President Donald Trump
's lies about his loss in the election.
Manchin’s issue with the For the People Act is that no Republican supports it. He has argued that changes to federal voting laws must be made in a bipartisan manner, despite the fact that many GOP-led states have changed how they run their elections
on a partisan basis.
Manchin’s opinion piece signaled his final refusal to budge on the bill ahead of a Senate
floor vote that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
(D-NY) has promised to hold later this month. Without Manchin, Democrats would lack the 50 votes
needed to pass the bill even if Senate filibuster
rules were changed.
“If [Manchin] would accept some parts of it, some elements of it that we think are important, that could be a step forward,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Other Democrats expressed their displeasure with Manchin, arguing that Democrats should hold a vote regardless to keep the focus on GOP efforts to restrict voting at the state level.
“I was somewhat saddened – more than somewhat – to see his op-ed,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said of Manchin, adding, “We just need to keep pushing, eventually, to vote.”
The voting provisions of the bill, according to King, are more urgent than the changes to campaign finance and lobbying, but those are likely the most popular provisions of the legislation.
Aside from possibly dropping the bill's provisions requiring public financing of elections and increased disclosure requirements for lobbyists, King suggested the bill should be more aggressive in one area: provisions prohibiting state legislatures from interfering with election results. Georgia
's new voting law, for example, shifted power from the secretary of state
to the state legislature.
“A lot of states are considering changes that the legislature could essentially overturn the results of an election in their state,” King said, “and I’m worried that they’re going to turn that over and say, OK, a Republican legislature can say, we believe there was fraud in Fulton County, and thus we’re going to certify a different set of electors.”
Sen. Raphael Warnock
, a Democrat from Georgia who is running for reelection next year in a state where the Republican governor
approved controversial voting changes earlier this year, expressed hope that Manchin would eventually change his mind and Congress
“We talked last night,” Warnock said Monday evening, “and we’re going to find a way forward because we don’t have any other option.”
“I believe Joe Manchin recognizes that this is a watershed moment in American history
and that our children
and grandchildren will judge us based on what we do now to preserve our democracy
,” he added.