On Tuesday, Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
(R-Ky.) spoke out against the John Lewis Voting Rights
Act, dealing a crushing blow to Sen. Joe Manchin
(D-W.Va.)'s compromise voting bill.
Manchin has irritated his Democratic
colleagues by opposing the “For the People Act
,” a package of sweeping voting and ethics reforms that Democrats
have described as critical to the survival of democracy
. Manchin has argued that federal voting reforms should be done on a bipartisan basis to instill confidence in elections
Instead, Manchin wants Congress
to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is supported by Sen. Lisa Murkowski
(R-Alaska). That legislation, named after the late civil rights
icon and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), is more narrowly tailored and, in theory, would address GOP
efforts to restrict voting access at the state level.
The bill would specifically reinstate a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 struck down by the Supreme Court
in 2013 that required states
with a history of discrimination to seek federal approval before making any proposed voting changes at the state level.
However, as McConnell demonstrated on Tuesday, Republicans
are unlikely to support restoring that provision, implying that Manchin's preferred alternative on voting rights will also die in the Senate.
“There is no threat to the voting rights law
; it is already illegal to discriminate in voting on the basis of race,” the Kentucky
Republican said when asked about the legislation during a weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Other than Murkowski, no other Republican senator has expressed support for the bill, which would require the support of at least nine other GOP senators in order to pass in the Senate.
Manchin's opposition to the For the People Act has Democrats scrambling to figure out a way forward on voting rights as more GOP-led states move to pass partisan voting changes ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
(D-N.Y.) has promised a vote on the bill later this month, but without all 50 members of his caucus on board, it may not even make it to the floor.
Democrats may make changes to the For the People Act to address Manchin's concerns, according to Schumer, who told reporters on Tuesday. Manchin is expected to lay out his concerns about the bill this week.
Despite meeting with high-profile civil rights leaders who pressed him to support the bill earlier on Tuesday, Manchin's position on the bill remains unchanged. The senator described the meeting as "very very good," "respectful," and "informative," but appeared unmoved by the group's arguments.
“I’m very concerned about our democracy, about protecting people’s voting rights and making sure that happens, and about making sure we understand how vulnerable we are as a country,” Manchin said following the meeting.