An attempt by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to float a compromise proposal on Democratic-led efforts to enact sweeping voting and election reforms was swiftly criticized by the chamber's Republican leader on Thursday.
Manchin has frustrated many voting advocates and fellow Democrats by coming out in opposition to the party's far-reaching election and campaign fundraising measure — S.1, the For the People Act — because it doesn't have bipartisan support. Instead, Manchin has backed a narrower bill named after the late civil rights icon John Lewis.
But on Wednesday, the West Virginia Democrat, who holds a crucial centrist position in the evenly divided Senate, laid out a larger series of provisions he'd support.
Manchin's pitch, which highlights how much power moderates continue to hold in thorny Senate negotiations, includes:
- automatic voter registration
- making Election Day a holiday
- mandating at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections
- banning partisan gerrymandering
He also favors voter ID provisions, which many Democrats often oppose, but with a wider list of alternatives to prove a voter's identity, like a utility bill.
"Congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials," Manchin wrote in a memo outlining the provisions.
Fellow Democrats largely applauded Manchin's offer. Interviewed on Morning Edition on Thursday, Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia politician and high-profile voting rights activist, came out in favor of the measure.
"In totality the proposals from Joe Manchin absolutely make sense," she said.
Speaking to CNN, Abrams added that she's open to some voter ID provisions. "What has been problematic is the type of restrictive ID that we've seen pop up," she said.
Her support appeared to have caught the attention of Republicans, who lined up against Manchin's framework.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday reiterated his opposition to far-reaching federal voting measures.
"In reality, the plan endorsed by Stacey Abrams is no compromise," he said in a statement. "It still subverts the First Amendment to supercharge cancel culture and the left's name-and-shame campaign model. It takes redistricting away from state legislatures and hands it over to computers. And it still retains S. 1's rotten core: an assault on the fundamental idea that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their own elections."
Manchin has steadfastly opposed doing away with the legislative filibuster to pass a voting bill, so any measure would need 60 votes to advance in the Senate.
The stances of McConnell and GOP senators indicate that's not likely to happen.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said the chamber would take up voting legislation next week.
The efforts come amid unprecedented action at the state level over voting and elections. While several states have expanded access to the ballot box in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of Republican-led states, including Georgia, Florida and Arizona, have enacted restrictive voting measures. Many GOP officials in those states and others are repeating former President Donald Trump's baseless claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent.
Democrats in Texas recently blocked election legislation there — a dramatic step that got many of them invited to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with congressional Democrats and Vice President Harris, the White House point person on voting issues.
Their visit was designed to drum up support for a federal elections overhaul, and pressure Democrats to get it over the finish line. On Tuesday the Texas contingent met with Manchin's staff, not the senator himself.