Confession: I have no sense of whether Manchin earnestly believes he can get 10 Republicans to compromise on a voting bill or whether he knows that he can’t and this is merely step one in some longer strategy he’s executing.
The obvious possibility for that second theory is that he’s looking to kill (or reform) the filibuster and this is the pretext he’s settled on. He’ll bring a voting bill to the floor that has some concessions to Republicans in it like voter ID and then, if they filibuster anyway, he’ll announce more in sorrow than in anger that he now sees the GOP will never work with him on important national interests. The filibusters is then summarily nuked and the bill passes.
The flaw in that theory, though, is that I do think Manchin earnestly wants to preserve the filibuster. Especially on voting bills, which he’s said require bipartisan buy-in as a matter of basic legitimacy in a divided country.
But if he’s not going to nuke the filibuster to pass his bill and he also knows that he hasn’t a prayer of getting to 60 on it, then what was the point of offering it? Was it simply a “messaging bill,” a way for him to show the left that he did his best on voting rights and even had Stacey Abrams’s support before throwing in the towel?
Would it benefit him in any way to do that? It’s not like he was going to get primaried in West Virginia if he hadn’t.
Anyway, his bill’s not happening.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believed all 50 Republicans would oppose Sen. Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) slimmed-down elections compromise, which focuses on expanding early voting and ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections. And it’s not clear there’s a single Republican vote to even begin debate on the matter, potentially dooming Manchin’s proposals before they can even make it into the bill.
Both Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said they would likely oppose a procedural vote next week that would bring Democrats’ massive elections reform bill to the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the Senate could amend the bill to adopt Manchin’s changes. But Romney said supporting that strategy “doesn’t make a lot of sense to me” and Murkowski said “Joe hasn’t briefed me on any of this.”
“It needs to be blocked,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who praised Manchin last week for “saving our country” in encouraging bipartisanship. “I’m not optimistic that they could make enough changes to that to make it a fair bill. It would usurp the rights of the states.”
Manchin mentioned Murkowski in his op-ed last week announcing his opposition to H.R. 1. She’s willing to compromise on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, he wrote, holding her up as proof that Republicans can and will compromise even on voting legislation. Now here she is apparently ready to filibuster the start of debate on H.R. 1 even with assurances that that bill can be switched out for Manchin’s bill after formal deliberations again.
Did Manchin really not see this coming? Again, is he naive or playing three-dimensional chess that none of us are sharp enough to follow?
Ted Cruz summarized why Republicans will never support any Democrat-authored voting legislation. The GOP base has been convinced that Democrats can’t win without cheating, therefore any laws they propose — even ones written by the most centrist Dem in the Senate — are fatally suspect:
Sen. @tedcruz on S1: "When Republicans had the White House and both houses of Congress we didn't try this. We didn’t try to rig the system so that our side could never lose an election." pic.twitter.com/cckHqVZGk4
— The Hill (@thehill) June 17, 2021
Some of Cruz’s colleagues weren’t as blunt, preferring to argue instead that Stacey Abrams’s endorsement of the bill has now rendered it a nonstarter despite the fact that it came out of Manchin’s office:
It’s unusual for #McConnell to hold two news conferences in one week in Washington.
This suggests he’s sees Manchin’s movement on the #votingrights bill as a real threat. Ahead of his newser, he argues it will “supercharge the cancel culture.” #elections #ForThePeopleAct pic.twitter.com/7PGTt5voaW
— Eva McKend (@evamckend) June 17, 2021
Manchin’s not a good villain for Republican voters, Abrams is. So this is now the Stacey Abrams compromise, not the Joe Manchin compromise:
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) says when Stacey Abrams endorsed Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) voting rights proposal, “it became the Stacey Abrams substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute.” pic.twitter.com/0tdvvLmwGw
— The Recount (@therecount) June 17, 2021
The great irony of Manchin’s bill is that, although it’s destined to fail in the Senate, it’s already succeeded wildly in moving the Overton window towards voter ID among the left. Abrams was asked about the fact that the bill requires voter ID in her interview with CNN this morning and declared, implausibly, that she’s never had a problem with that per se. Raphael Warnock, another voting-rights warrior, has also belatedly decided that voter ID is perfectly fine:
“I have never been opposed to voter ID,” Warnock said. “And in fact, I don’t know anybody who is — who believes people shouldn’t have to prove that they are who they say they are. But what has happened over the years is people have played with common sense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome, but to select, certain group.”
Here’s what the line on voter ID was among Democratic activist groups as of literally two days ago:
Reminder: Voter ID is voter suppression.
It's 2021 and Republicans still don't get it. pic.twitter.com/heCT2CkyjI
— PA House Dems (@PAHDCC) June 15, 2021
Here’s what it was a few years ago:
Democrat Raphael Warnock today to NBC News: "I have never been opposed to voter ID"
Warnock in 2012: "most destructive assault on the voting rights… since the ugly days of Jim Crow… it all began right here in Georgia with these unnecessary and unjustifiable voter ID laws…" pic.twitter.com/K7SlG9Zo13
— Nathan Brand (@NathanBrandWA) June 17, 2021
At the end of the saga with Manchin’s bill, Dems will have nothing by way of federal voting legislation but they will have a whole lot of big-name lefties now on record as saying they’re okay with voter ID. That feels like a major backfire.
…unless, as I say, this is just part one of some craftier strategy that he’s executing. Stay tuned on that. I’ll leave you with this, which definitely points to the “Manchin is woefully naive” theory of what he’s up to.
Manchin on McConnell rejecting his election reform proposals, per pool:
“McConnell has the right to do whatever he thinks he can do. I would hope there’s enough good Republicans that understand the bedrock of our society is having accessable, open, fair and secure elections.”
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) June 17, 2021