Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., opened the door to a compromise on federal voting and campaign finance legislation on Wednesday with a memo outlining the provisions he would support.
Manchin has become a key figure in his party’s fight to push through federal legislation to protect voting rights. The moderate Democrat opposed his party’s election legislation, dubbed For the People Act (S.1), saying it is too partisan and arguing that any change in the vote should have bipartisan support.
Manchin has backed a narrower bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but says he doesn’t think the filibuster rules should be changed to pass it despite opposition from most Republicans .
On Wednesday, he reaffirmed to reporters that he still believes voting legislation – including his own proposed version – should be passed on a bipartisan basis and that he does not support changing obstruction rules for the adopt without the support of Republicans.
Manchin’s compromise proposal includes changes to both bills. He supports election day being a public holiday, offering 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections and automatic voter registration through state motor vehicle services.
He also proposes to require voter identification, but allow alternatives such as utility bills to suffice as proof of identity.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Said no Republican would vote for the For the People Act and argued that the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was unnecessary.
In his memo, Manchin reiterated his desire for bipartisan support and proposed changes to both bills.
“Congress action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a way forward, otherwise we risk dividing and further destroying the republic we have sworn to. protect and defend as elected officials, ”he wrote.
Manchin’s proposal came as a welcome surprise to Democrats and activists pushing for passage of the For The People Act, who saw it as an opening to reshape the bill to gain support.
“I think he’s making a really valuable contribution by engaging on issues as important as defending the right and freedom to vote of every American,” Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, told reporters. main sponsor of S.1, Wednesday before an early vote on the legislation next week.
Senator Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., A frank voice on the issue, said he “hopes we find a way forward” that includes Manchin’s vote victory over electoral rules, saying he talked about the matter.
“We have to find a way to get voting rights, period,” he told NBC News in a recent interview. “Is there room for compromise and conversation? Absolutely.”
Warnock said this could include combining elements of the For The People Act (S.1) with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as long as they “find a way to ensure that the voices of the people are not heard. ousted from their democracy “.
A senior Democratic official involved in the S.1 negotiations said it was a welcome sign that Manchin was shifting his opposition from demands for bipartisanship to political specificities.
“Progress is progress. Conversations are good. And understanding what Senator Manchin’s concerns are about the bill is helpful in moving forward,” the aide said. “And this is a very optimistic moment in the trajectory of securing expanded voting rights.”
The aide noted that some provisions of Manchin’s list, such as voter identification, could be a failure with some Democrats seeing it as a policy that “would make it harder for people to vote.”
Engaging Manchin would be crucial to securing 50 votes in the Senate, with Democrats having no serious hope of Republican support for the legislation. But the biggest hurdle is reaching 60 votes to officially move the bill forward and move to a Senate vote, which would require weakening or removing the obstruction, which Manchin has repeatedly ruled out.
Adam Bozzi, spokesman for End Citizens United, a progressive group fighting to pass S.1, said in a text message: “We know that Senator Manchin cares deeply about protecting our democracy and limiting the influence of special interests and this will continue to be an ongoing negotiation that everyone should let go. “
Manchin hosted a Zoom meeting on Monday to discuss voting rights and policing issues, inviting a group of at least eight Republicans as well as civil rights leaders, several assistants familiar with the meeting told NBC News.
“We are encouraged to see a movement to protect voting rights, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” Jonah Bryson, spokesperson for NAACP Chairman Derrick Johnson, told NBC News on Wednesday. “President Johnson looks forward to having more conversations with Sen. Manchin and all Senators as we move forward.”