Joe Manchin cosponsored the voting-rights bill in 2019 that he is now blocking on the grounds that the GOP doesn't like it

  • Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin opposes a sweeping voting-rights bill that his party is trying to pass.
  • Manchin has said he objects because no Republicans back it. With him opposing, it cannot pass.
  • Manchin cosponsored the same bill in 2019, when it also had no GOP backers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Joe Manchin cosponsored the voting-rights bill in 2019 that he recently announced he would vote against, arguing for a bipartisan bill instead. 

Manchin’s refusal to back the For The People Act has tanked Democrats’ ambitions of passing sweeping election reforms. The act narrowly passed the House in March with zero votes from Republicans.

As the Senate is evenly divided, relying on the tiebreaker vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, Manchin can block the passage of the bill single-handedly.

His opposition has infuriated many Democrats, who have spent the past days attacking his position.

New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman called him “the new Mitch McConnell,” in reference to the GOP senate minority leader known for his obstructionist tactics. 

Former communications director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Tim Hogan, offered this, milder response:

In an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday, Manchin argued that he couldn’t support a voting rights bill that has no bipartisan support. 

But Manchin was a cosponsor of an earlier version of the bill introduced in 2019, which had no GOP cosponsors, a fact that his critics have highlighted.

In March that year — when Democrats did not have a majority in the Senate — Manchin joined 45 others in the effort led by Sen. Jeff Merkley to pass the act.

In his op-ed on Sunday, Manchin didn’t comment on whether he had changed his mind about the content of the bill, but focused on its political support in the Senate.

“Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage,” he argued, appearing to rebuke his own party. 

Manchin said that he can’t support a bill that has zero support from the other side of the aisle, writing: “Congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward.”

He also argued against abolishing the filibuster, which Democrats would need to do in order to move the legislation forward with no GOP votes. 

He has instead pushed for another, narrower piece of voting rights legislation, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which he hopes will gain more conservative support.

Commentators — from Fox News’ Chris Wallace to The Washington Post’s op-ed section — have argued that it is naive to expect bipartisan support from Republicans even for the more moderate bill. 

With the filibuster in place, the John Lewis act needs 10 GOP votes to move forward. So far it has one supporter — from Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. It looks unlikely he’ll get more, as Politico has reported. 

Democrats are frustrated by his centrism in the face of an intransigent opposition, Politico reported.

Merkley, who has pushed for the For The People Act for years, said on Twitter: “Obviously, I’m disappointed by Senator Manchin’s position,” adding that he is “open to any conversation about the provisions of this bill” with the fellow Democrat. 

Manchin’s office did not immediately reply to Insider’s request for comment.

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