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Tag: for the people act

GOP Senators Block Election Reform -- As States Erode Democracy

For now, Senate Republicans have blocked sweeping election reform. They argued that America's elections are not in crisis and are best run by rules set by states. Meanwhile, in capitals across battleground states, numerous Republican legislators have been claiming elections face numerous threats and have passed dozens of laws, the most aggressive of which curtail voting options, newly police the process, and empower party loyalists at post-Election Day counting stages.

"The Republican leader flatly stated that no matter what the states do to undermine our democracy—voter suppression laws, phony 'audits,' or partisan takeovers of local election boards—the Senate should not act," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and majority leader, referring to Kentucky's Sen. Mitch McConnell and a Republican filibuster that blocked the election reform bill.

"Republican state legislatures across the country are engaged in the most sweeping voter suppression in 80 years," Schumer said. "Capitalizing on, and catalyzed by, Donald Trump's big lie [that he won in 2020], these state governments are making it harder for younger, poorer, urban and non-white Americans to vote."

The deepening divide over voting in America is larger than the For the People Act, the Democrat-sponsored bill that addresses presidential ethics, campaign finance, partisan redistricting and voting rights. Both major parties are vying to change who votes in America and how they cast ballots. Republicans often are seeking a more limited franchise. Democrats are seeking the opposite.

In the Senate on June 22, the GOP argument often reverted to states' rights, which had permitted a litany of voting rights abuses and violence for decades until the passage of strong federal civil and voting rights laws in the 1960s.

"You are imposing a federal mandate and a one-size-fits-all approach that just might not fit well," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, in a speech opposing the reform bill. "We don't know everything best back here [in Washington]."

Voting rights battles are not new, but new ground is being broken in 2021. Seen nationally, Republicans, whose base is aging and shrinking, have been raising the bar for access to a ballot and seeking to segregate voters by party for much of the 21st century. This is especially true in increasingly purple states where the party holds gerrymander-created legislative majorities and dominates the courts.

Democrats, in turn, have been left in more defensive postures where they have railed against the immorality of complicating the process for voters, which can suppress turnout; have sued to blunt new laws that can impede voters; and have worked to increase voter turnout, especially in high-profile contests. On balance, Republicans have been more proactive, and Democrats' responses have been less effective, leaving Republicans with the upper hand in shaping America's strictest voting rules.

That dynamic and history led to congressional Democrats teeing up a massive reform bill comprised of proposals that have languished for years. It also gave congressional Republicans a single target. As GOP senators attacked a handful of progressive voting rights reforms in the For the People Act, they drew upon a strategy that has long been part of their party's "election integrity" messaging.

They criticized the bill's loosening of strict voter ID rules, creating public financing for candidates, and so-called ballot harvesting, the GOP's term for activists and party workers who provide assistance to voters by collecting ballots mailed to and filled out by voters and delivering them to election offices. Senate Republicans recited these objections as talking points and more broadly defended states' rights, despite Democrats' rebuttals that the senators were reviving last century's segregationist arguments.

"Republican leaders say that they like this rigged system… taking us back to the racist efforts that existed before the 1965 Voting Rights Act," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, in one such floor speech. "A violent mob storming the Capitol isn't the only way to attack Democracy."

A Widening Attack On American Democracy

It would be a mistake to characterize the Senate gridlock as just another phase in America's endless partisan battles. Starting in Trump's presidency, many Republicans have widened this playbook to not just attack expanded access to voting but now also to target election administrators and voting systems. That development, whose rhetoric is filled with false claims about stolen votes, is serious because it rattles several foundations of American democracy.

American elections have largely relied on the good faith of election officials. In most cases, these civil servants place public service and overseeing a reputable process before personal and partisan gain. But many career election officials are leaving the field due to the partisan attacks and threats of violence that followed the 2020 election. In addition, the conspiratorial thinking has led many supporters of Trump to believe that the 2020 election is not over. No finality in elections, in turn, delegitimizes representative government and the ability to govern.

"We are watching, once again, the devolution of democracy in the United States," said Stacey Abrams, one of the Democratic Party's foremost voting rights activists, speaking on a June 22 Zoom briefing to promote her new book, Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America.

But the problems facing American democracy are bigger than Trump, she said.

"Yes, there's a guy who wanted to win, and he didn't win, and he told a big lie, and there are those who use him as their proxy," Abrams said. "But let's be clear, their [Trump supporters'] anger is about who made the choice; their anger is about who showed up to vote—who did not vote before. Because of COVID-19, we saw… a confrontation with voter suppression the likes of which we have not seen in a generation in the United States. Because of that [response], 50 million people voted by mail because it was too dangerous to go outside."

In election administration circles, the pandemic was historically disruptive. Once 2020's primaries resumed, many states struggled to accommodate voters due to health precautions, poll worker shortages and last-minute logistical challenges. By the fall's general election, however, public officials made extraordinary efforts to offer more options for voters to get a ballot and ways to cast it.

According to the U.S. Elections Project, which tracks voter turnout, 56 million people voted in a different manner in the 2020 presidential election than they had in the 2016 presidential election. Many Republicans in the U.S. Senate and in state legislatures have said the expanded voting options were not normal and must be reeled in (despite the fact that many Republican candidates won 2020 state and federal races).

But Trump's stolen election rhetoric has not just endured in right-wing circles. It has led many red-run states to pass new laws to make voting harder, targeting the early and mail options that Democrats embraced in the 2020 election. And in some states, legislators expanded the power of their party's observers and curtailed the authority of local officials to maintain order during the final vote-counting phase. Simply put, the GOP attack on voting has widened its targets.

"And so we are watching as, state by state, the insurrection that we saw happen on January 6 takes root in our state governments, and state by state, we are watching anti-voter legislation putting up new barriers or tearing down access," Abrams said. "We are watching additional harms being put in place to challenge election workers—people whose only job is to make the administration of elections work. They are being attacked. They are being criminalized. We are watching the subversion of democracy through legislation."

These anti-voting trends can be seen in 10 states that tend to have a large impact on national politics, said Abrams, citing Texas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas and Oklahoma. "We've had more than 22 states in this year alone adopt more restrictive language," she said.

Post-2020 Impacts Coming Into View

Like all political decisions, new legislation can have unforeseen or overlooked consequences once the white-hot debates subside and laws are implemented.

That dynamic can be seen in Georgia, for example, where Republicans are using little-noticed language from bills passed earlier this year to remove Democrats from county boards of election.

These unseated officials—who, in Georgia, include several Black women who have spent years learning the details of running elections—decide on matters such as weekend polling place hours, ballot drop box locations and other details that affect whether voting is easier or harder. This is an attack on voters by targeting the referees of the process, whereas previously, bipartisan election administration lent credibility and legitimacy to the election outcomes.

A related under-the-radar dynamic has been simmering in Arizona, where the state Senate Republicans have sanctioned a post-election review of ballots from Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and 60 percent of the statewide electorate. In recent weeks, Voting Booth has reported on the accuracy-related shortcomings of that exercise, especially its hand count of 2.1 million ballots.

A June 22 report co-authored by Trey Grayson, a Republican and Kentucky's former secretary of state, and Barry Burden, a University of Wisconsin political scientist, affirmed these observations, saying the Arizona Senate review was run by "inexperienced, unqualified" private firms that are "ill-equipped to conduct it successfully and produce meaningful findings."

But the hundreds of paid workers—mostly middle-aged and older Maricopa County voters who supported Trump—employed in the Arizona state Senate's inquiry think that they are taking part in a process that is patriotic and saving American democracy, as Voting Booth has repeatedly been told in interviews while reporting from Phoenix.

But election auditors have challenged this assumption, pointing out that the Senate review's contractors have not performed crucial comparisons of the hand count of ballots against the building blocks of the official results, which would be essential to the meaningfulness of the inquiry. Moreover, many of these workers are suspicious of the voting process and distrustful of election officials. One hand-count employee was overheard saying, "I hope they are fake ballots, because there are so many [for] Biden."

While it is unclear what kind of report or claims will emerge from the Arizona Senate's review, it is not expected to be anything like a June 23 report by the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee, a Republican-led body, that inventoried and debunked the stolen election accusations made in that state. Nor is anything produced by the Arizona Senate's contractors expected to put doubts about 2020 to rest.

"If the election lives on forever, and the doubt in the electorate grows, the whole institution of election administration is undermined, and the norms that are associated with that [institution] are undermined," said Larry Moore, the retired CEO of Clear Ballot, an election auditing firm, and critic of the Arizona review.

"If you keep discussing [the process] as though you'll end up with a different outcome, you rob the government—the people who won—with the ability to govern. And that is so incredibly corrosive."

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, the American Prospect, and many others.

This article was produced by Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Poll: Americans Love Democracy But Fear For Its Future

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

There aren't many polling questions these days that draw 90 percent-plus agreement, but Americans are united by one central idea: They believe the country should remain a democracy.

A newly released Daily Kos/Civiqs poll found that fully 93 percent of registered voters said they believed America "should remain a democracy." Just three percent favored "some other form of government," and four percent said they were unsure.

Another question also revealed a great deal of anxiety among respondents about the future of democracy in America. Asked if they feel worried the U.S. is "becoming less of a democracy," 87 percent expressed concern. Here's the breakdown:

  • Yes, very worried: 61 percent
  • Yes, somewhat worried: 26 percent
  • No, not too worried: 7 percent
  • No, not worried at all: 4 percent
  • Unsure: 2 percent

Those are pretty stunning numbers, frankly, about the level of alarm in this country over the seemingly tectonic political shift taking place, with just 11 percent saying they aren't concerned.

Where the consensus breaks down along partisan lines is on what represents a threat to U.S. democracy. The survey gauged respondents' views on both the GOP voter suppression laws being passed in the states and Democrats' attempt to pass voting rights legislation at the federal level, and it found an almost even split on which efforts represented an attack on democracy or a good-faith effort to protect it.

One question asked, "As you may know, Republican legislators in many states have recently passed new voting laws. Do you think these new laws are an attack on American democracy or an attempt to protect it?"

  • An attempt to protect American democracy: 44 percent
  • An attack on American democracy: 50 percent
  • Neither: 3 percent
  • I don't know enough to say: 4 percent

The next query stated, "Democrats in Congress are currently proposing new voting rights legislation. Do you think this legislation is an attack on American democracy or an attempt to protect it?"

  • An attempt to protect American democracy: 46 percent
  • An attack on American democracy: 43 percent
  • Neither: 3 percent
  • I don't know enough to say: 8 percent

The takeaway from this series of questions is clear: The overwhelming majority of Americans feel like the country is at a crossroads, but they are also split almost evenly about how to best protect U.S. democracy moving forward. The key difference, of course, is that perceptions on one side of the fault line have been almost entirely informed and driven by Donald Trump's baseless lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him when, in fact, he was the rightful loser.

Republican voters have basically bought into that narrative hook, line, and sinker, as many polls have shown. But this survey demonstrates just how effectively GOP lawmakers have seized on that baseless narrative to justify passing laws that will help them lock in minority rule at both the state and federal levels.

Senate Republicans Running 'Blockade' Against Key Biden Legislation

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

On Tuesday evening Senate Republicans killed debate on the For the People Act, a key component of Democrats' agenda to protect democracy, expand and strengthen voting rights, and reduce the influence of dark money in elections. As Senators were voting on the motion to begin debate on the bill, news broke that the GOP Whip, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota had announced another critical piece of Democratic legislation, the infrastructure bill, was even further in doubt.

GOP Senators appeared to be orchestrating a complete and total shutdown of key legislation critical to President Joe Biden's progressive agenda.

Democratic Majority Leader Schumer immediately denounced Republicans' "blockade."

Sen. Thune also said Republicans would oppose a slimmed down version of a voting rights bill:

60 votes were required to begin debate on the voting rights bill. The motion failed in a 50-50 vote. As voting was taking place GOP Minority Leader Mitch mcConnell could be seen huddling with other top Republican Senators including John Cornyn of Texas and John Kennedy of Louisiana.

The only option to pass the bill now would be for a simple majority of Senators agree to kill the 60-vote filibuster. Some are supporting a modification to 55 votes. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona had steadfastly refused to support killing the filibuster.

"This is a dark day in this country," Al Sharpton said on MSNBC.

"This is a dark day for Republicans," host Nicolle Wallace replied. "Republicans won't just walk over norms, they will burn them down," she told host Ari Melber during the handoff.

Voting rights expert Ari Berman weighed in, chastising the GOP:





Why Democrats Should Take Manchin’s Voting Rights Deal

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-WV) opposition to Democrats' push to expand voting rights has been a deep point of contention that has left the lawmaker on the outs with his political party. However, Democratic lawmakers may want to take a hard look at his latest counteroffer, according to election law scholar Richard Hasen.

In a piece published by Slate, Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, laid out the details of Manchin's counteroffer to the "For the People" bill, HR-1. The lawmaker's proposal addresses a number of the original bill's highest priorities where voting rights and campaign finance are concerned.

According to Hasen, Manchin's proposal includes "a requirement of 15 days of early voting in federal elections, automatic voter registration, limits on partisan gerrymandering, and improved campaign finance disclosure."

The lawmaker is also in agreement on "extending campaign finance provisions to communications on the internet and to currently non-disclosing 'dark money' groups, prohibiting false information about when, where, and how people vote, and an updated pre-clearance process."

While it is clear that the West Virginia Senator's proposal isn't exactly what Democratic lawmakers are advocating, Hasen suggests Democrats should at least consider the offer. He acknowledged that while many of the line items Democrats initially proposed are not included, most of those items are far less pressing.

Hasen explained why:

"Democrats should jump at the opportunity to pass such a bill, but it is also fair to acknowledge it is far from perfect, Many of the darlings in the For the People Act are not on Manchin's list, such as felon re-enfranchisement, public financing of congressional elections, restructuring the often-deadlocked Federal Election Commission, and limiting state voter purges. Not only would the Manchin proposal continue to allow states to engage in voter purges, it also will require some form of voter identification for voting in federal elections, though in a more relaxed form than some of the strict rules some states have enacted."

Hasen also noted that voter identification could actually prove to be beneficial if implemented in a fair manner. Moving forward with Manchin's proposal could also open the door for bipartisan discussions instead of the bill just dying in the Senate.

New Study Shows Manchin’s ‘Bipartisan’ Approach On Voting Rights Is Misguided

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

When Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia shot down Democrats' signature voting rights legislation in an op-ed last week, he said that protecting voting rights "should never be done in a partisan manner."

But a new Brennan Center analysis of the voter suppression laws sweeping the nation shows what a preposterous and indeed hypocritical position that is. The center's examination of the 24 state-level voting restriction laws enacted as of early June proves the suppression efforts have been an almost exclusively Republican enterprise.

"Overall, we find that these new laws were enacted as part of an overwhelmingly partisan Republican push," reads the report. "Republicans introduced and drove virtually all of the bills that impose new voting restrictions, and the harshest new laws were passed with almost exclusively Republican votes and signed into law by Republican governors."

Still somehow Manchin insists that GOP lawmakers at the federal level are both interested in and fundamental to playing a corrective role to their counterparts in the states.

In Iowa, where one of this session's most restrictive bills passed on a party-line vote, Jennifer Konfrst, Democratic whip in the Iowa House of Representatives, is practically tearing out her hair over Manchin's intransigence.

"It is unfathomable to me that we would look at this issue and say we have to bring Republicans along, in this political climate, in order to make true change," Konfrst told The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein. "I don't see anywhere where Republicans are inviting Democrats along, or inviting Democrats to the table. Why are some Democrats saying 'I won't do this unless it's bipartisan?'"

Here's a snapshot of the Brennan Center findings courtesy of Brownstein:

  • 14 states have passed 24 laws restricting voting access so far this year (with dozens still pending in another 18 states)
  • 17 of those passed in nine states are deemed "highly restrictive" by the Brennan Center
  • All nine of those states are under unified GOP control with the exception of Kansas, where Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the law only to be overridden by the Republican-dominated state legislature
  • No Democrat co-sponsored any of the 17 bills
  • Not one Democrat voted for 13 of those 17 laws. Another three of those laws drew support from a single lonely Democratic lawmaker in the legislatures of Arkansas, Montana, and Wyoming. (The only highly restrictive bill to receive meaningful Democratic support was a voter ID law enacted in Arkansas)
  • Among all the state House/Assembly Republicans who voted on these 17 bills, just 12of 1,143 voted against them; among state Senate Republicans, just seven of 458 voted no on them.

There’s A Better Way To Protect Democracy Than H.R. 1

When Sen. Joe Manchin announced he would oppose the For the People Act, Steve Benen of MSNBC spoke for many Democrats when he declared that "Joe Manchin is prepared to be remembered by history as the senator who did little more than hope as his country's democracy unraveled."

One can share Democrats' alarm about the state of our democracy without concluding that the For the People Act was the answer.

H.R. 1 is a mashup of sound ideas (requiring a paper record of each vote) with outdated and arguably unconstitutional measures (banning so-called dark money at a time when small-dollar donations are more important); and limiting speech, which the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, opposes.

Some are now saying the Democrats should turn to the John Lewis Act as a response to Republican efforts to curtail voting rights in the states. But the Lewis Act is off-point, too.

Look, Republican efforts to limit early and absentee voting are destructive because they ratify the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen. These laws deserve the strongest condemnation, and Democrats would be justified in running ads reminding voters that Republicans were acting in bad faith.

But not all of the measures in these laws are objectionable. Requiring an ID strikes many people as simple common sense. An Economist/YouGov poll in April found that 64 percent of Americans agreed with the statement: "Photo ID should be required to vote in person." Among African Americans, 60 percent agreed. Democrats should not die on this hill.

Moreover, the far more pressing emergency is the Republican Party's loosening attachment to democratic procedures and to truth itself. As we saw in the aftermath of 2020, 147 Republican officeholders were willing to decertify the Electoral College count. A few brave local Republican officials resisted tremendous pressure to alter or misreport the results of elections. They demonstrated integrity. For their trouble, instead of being lauded and celebrated as heroes of democracy, they have been censured by GOP committees across the country as the legend of the Big Lie has seized the minds of rank-and-file Republicans.

The Republican Party is barreling toward disregarding the actual vote count in a presidential contest. The John Lewis Act does not address this.

There is something Democrats can do at the federal level to respond to the threat: They can amend the Electoral Count Act of 1887. Republicans would be unlikely to filibuster this law, so Democrats can pass it with a simple majority vote.

This law was passed following the contentious Hayes-Tilden election in 1876 — a contest that was so close it threatened to tear the country apart just 11 years after Appomattox. Here is a sample of its brilliant draftsmanship:

"If more than one return or paper purporting to be a return from a State shall have been received by the President of the Senate, those votes, and those only, shall be counted which shall have been regularly given by the electors who are shown by the determination mentioned in section 5 of this title to have been appointed, if the determination in said section provided for shall have been made."

It goes on and on like that. Laws should not be written to obscure but to clarify.

The law directs governors to certify their states' results and the slate of electors chosen by the voters. But it also specifies that in a case of a "failed election" (not defined) in which the voters have not made a choice, the state legislature can step in to appoint electors.

As the votes were being counted in 2020, Republican influencers like radio host Mark Levin were suggesting that state legislatures had a "constitutional duty" to reverse the will of the voters and name their own slate of Trump electors. When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was asked by Sean Hannity about possibly invalidating votes, he said, "Everything should be on the table."

The Electoral Count Act decrees that if one representative and one senator object, in writing, to the counting of any state's electoral votes, the bodies must adjourn to their chambers to debate the matter.

As Ed Kilgore has recommended, Congress should amend the Electoral Count Act to clarify that only electoral votes certified by individual states will be counted and that the vice president's role is purely ceremonial. Further, the threshold for objections to state electoral vote counts should be much higher than two.

I would add that a supermajority should be required to decertify any state's electoral votes, not just a simple majority as the law now permits. Additionally, the law should be amended to eliminate the "failed election" section that empowers legislatures to substitute their preference for that of the voters. There are armies of law professors who can provide relevant language and good ideas for other changes.

Forget H.R. 1. Forget campaign finance. Don't perseverate on whether poll watchers can distribute water to voters waiting in line. It's not the vote casting but the vote counting that needs attention. Now.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her most recent book is Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

In West Virginia, Koch Network Pushes Manchin To Oppose Voting Rights

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Prominent Black leaders took their case for restoring voting rights and passing S. 1, the For the People Act, directly to Sen. Joe Manchin Tuesday morning. NAACP President Derrick Johnson and other Black leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton and the heads of the National Urban League, the National Council of Negro Women, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights tried to convince the obstinate West Virginia Democrat that there's more at stake here than his ego.

"The right to vote is under attack," Johnson said in a statement before the meeting. "We must do everything we can to protect the American people's sacred right to participate in the democratic process. Our vote is our voice, and we will not be silenced." In addition to this full-court and direct press to try to budge Manchin, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the leader of the Poor People's Campaign, is going to lead a "Moral March on Manchin" next week in West Virginia as well as a "nonviolent direct action" targeting Manchin in Washington.

That meeting did not move Manchin. "I don't think anybody changed positions on [S. 1]," he told reporters afterward. It was a "constructive conversation," and "just an excellent meeting," and he is "very much concerned about our democracy." But he's not going to listen to these people who've devoted their entire professional and personal lives to advancing democracy because he's Joe Manchin and knows what's best. Also, he's got the Koch network on his side. They're who he really seems to be listening to.

The Koch network is doing him a real solid right now by running ads in West Virginia, and "specifically calls on its grassroots supporters to push Manchin, a conservative Democrat, to be against some of his party's legislative priorities."

They've tailored their effort to Manchin, with an Americans for Prosperity (AFP) website they're calling "West Virginia Values," where they tell people to email Manchin and urge him to "to be The Voice West Virginia Needs In D.C.—Reject Washington's Partisan Agenda." It's almost like they're ghost-writing Manchin's statements about partisanship. They're sure going all out to make sure they're Manchin's best friends.

"Sen. Manchin has long blazed his own path, and on this issue, we agree: Extreme partisanship gets in the way of finding positive solutions," Lo Isidro, a spokesman for AFP, told CNBC. "Unfortunately, this bill [S. 1] and the tactics some are using to pass it would make it harder to work together—chilling debate, worsening partisanship, and setting up a false choice between voting rights and free speech." All hail the conquering trailblazer Joe Manchin.

Who's happy to repay the favor by calling the Kochs (checks notes) "job creators." No, really—he's claimed that in the past. "People want jobs. You don't beat up people. I mean, I don't agree with their politics or philosophically, [but he actually does] but, you know, they're Americans, they're doing—paying their taxes. […] They're not breaking the law. They're providing jobs."

Speaking of Manchin and ego, he stepped in it when he published that opinion piece in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, when he declared that he would not support S. 1, the For the People Act to restore voting rights and in addition would never vote to eliminate the filibuster. The Hill reports that "there appeared to be no heads up to the White House or key Democratic leaders that it was coming. And it was widely seen as an abrasive move." It was absolutely an abrasive move, and he did himself no favors with it among his colleagues or with President Joe Biden. It's the kind of arrogance that will make colleagues disinclined to help him out on his other legislative efforts. It makes him no friends, that's for sure.

He's also stretching the bounds of his friendship with Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who he put on the spot when he declared that the two of them could get the John Lewis Voting Rights Act—which has not yet passed in the House this session—through the Senate. Right now Murkowski is the only Republican to endorse it. Asked if it was possible the two of them could find 10 Republicans to support it, she told NBC: "I don't know. I don't know. It's a challenging one. I think we just have to be honest with it. You've got to find an awful lot of Republicans to join us on this."

Even Murkowski's partner in "moderation," Susan Collins, won't publicly endorse the bill. Her office did not respond to NBC's request for comment. Sen. John Cornyn did comment to say he would talk to fellow Republicans to tank the bill. "It is basically doing through the back door what Democrats are trying to do through the front door on S.1 and H.R.1 [the For the People Act]," he said. "What I don't want to happen is if S.1 doesn't make it because people like Sen. Manchin are opposed to it that people say, 'Well, this is kind of a lesser included provision.' It's just as big of a problem as S.1." Asked if there were 10 Republicans who would support it, he said, "I hope not."

It would be remiss of me not to shout out to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema here now that Cornyn has exposed himself. The last we saw of Sinema was her little trip to the border with Cornyn, where she refused to explain why she blew off the Senate vote on the Jan. 6 commission, and gave an absolutely ignorant and ridiculous defense of keeping the filibuster. Listening to Manchin and Sinema talk on this makes it horrifyingly apparent that neither of them has bothered to read the extensive histories that we've all been shoving at them of the filibuster as a Jim Crow relic.

Manchin and Sinema both seem to be as incapable of being shamed as McConnell, so how a breakthrough is going to be made here isn't clear. But at this point, it's probably going to have to involve threats because they're certainly not going to do the right thing simply because it's the right thing for our democracy.

Why Manchin Is So Wrong On Voting Rights

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia officially announced in an op-ed Sunday that he would vote against the For the People Act, infuriating progressive critics who view the bill as a crucial tool for countering the Republican Party's anti-democratic tactics.

But Manchin's announcement wasn't particularly surprising, as he has repeatedly signaled that he was not fully supportive of the bill and prefers the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a more modest proposal. Even more critically, though, he has insisted that he doesn't want to end the filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 votes to pass a bill, which would've doomed the For the People Act whether Manchin supported it or not. No Republican senators support the bill, and at least 10 would be needed for join all 50 Democrats to pass it into law under the current filibuster rule.

It wasn't just Manchin's opposition to the For the People Act that infuriated his critics, though. The particular arguments he gave struck many as weak, condescending, and hypocritical.

He insisted that any voting rights legislation that will pass must be bipartisan. He warned: "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."

But he refused to answer the simple and natural question that this demanded raises: What if congressional Republicans refuse to support any voting rights legislation?

He wrote:

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. For as long as I have the privilege of being your U.S. senator, I will fight to represent the people of West Virginia, to seek bipartisan compromise no matter how difficult and to develop the political bonds that end divisions and help unite the country we love.
American democracy is something special, it is bigger than one party, or the tweet-filled partisan attack politics of the moment. It is my sincere hope that all of us, especially those who are privileged to serve, remember our responsibility to do more to unite this country before it is too late.

But he didn't acknowledge that "partisan voting legislation" is already being passed across the country. Republicans are rewriting the voting rules in state legislatures where they have total control, redesigning the process to fit their own partisan purposes. They hope to make it much easier for their own party to win control, and there are even indications that their policies could make it easier for Republicans to steal elections if they don't win. And Republicans are also poised to redraw congressional districts across the country to increase their advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives to be even greater than it already is, further making Congress even less representative and less democratic than it already is.

By blocking any effort from Democrats in Congress to reform voting rights, Manchin is guaranteeing that these partisan efforts by Republicans at the state level to reshape our elections to fit their desires will largely succeed. He says any federal legislation to reform voting rights must be bipartisan, but why would Senate or House Republicans do anything to weaken the advantage they have in control of state governments? Instead of insisting on bipartisanship, what Manchin is really insisting on is unilateral surrender by the Democratic Party. And if the GOP uses the opportunity to entrench their power, it may be a long time before Democrats can ever get it back.

And Manchin's demands are patently absurd on their face. For example, he wrote:

Democrats in Congress have proposed a sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act. This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support. Why? Are the very Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump because of actions that led to an attack on our democracy unwilling to support actions to strengthen our democracy? Are these same senators, whom many in my party applauded for their courage, now threats to the very democracy we seek to protect?

There are seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump because he inspired an attack on the U.S. Capitol to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. Manchin believes that this suggests they are willing to "strengthen our democracy" — but there's no reason to think this is true. Opposing Trump's brazen abuse of power and literal threat to the lives of U.S. lawmakers doesn't suggest that those Republicans don't also support restricting democracy in various ways or even even finding less violent ways to overturn elections. Many Republicans are happy to restrict democracy, even if they think Trump went too far. And Manchin and the Democrats weren't even able to convince all seven of those Republicans to support a commission to study the insurrection, further demonstrating the fact that their votes to convict didn't show a lasting good faith commitment to democracy.

Even still, had all seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump supported a bipartisan voting rights bill, that wouldn't be enough to pass under Manchin's demand to keep the filibuster. Manchin's standard requires at least 10 Republicans support any bill — which means he's insisting that Democrats let Republicans who voted to let Trump get away with the insurrection have a veto over voting rights laws.

Manchin promoted the John Lewis bill as an alternative to the For the People Act, touting it as "bipartisan." But he can only name one Republican senator who has come out in support of the bill — Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. No other Republican seems interested, and even Murkowski's interest appears tepid. And there's no sign that she or Manchin is doing the hard work to get nine other Republicans to vote in favor of the bill so it could actually pass in the face of a filibuster.

As Fox News' Chris Wallace pointed out on Sunday, Manchin has actually made the job of getting bipartisan agreement on a voting rights bill much harder by coming out firmly against reforming the filibuster. If he left open the possibility that he might support eliminating it were bipartisan negotiations to fail, Republicans would have more of an incentive to actually agree to a deal.

Since Manchin has taken filibuster reform off the table, though, Republicans know exactly what will happen at the federal level on voting rights if they refuse to play ball: nothing. At the state level, Republican legislatures will have free rein. Manchin is guaranteeing more partisanship in voting rights law, not less.