Filibuster or no filibuster, the For the People Act is not going to become law.
In an op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail late Saturday night, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat in a bright red state, announced that he will vote against the For the People Act.
Since this legislation has no Republican support, Manchin’s decision pretty much kills the bill. Democrats will certainly reintroduce it in a future Congress, but hopefully Republicans will control either the House or the Senate or both chambers by then.
Manchin wrote, “The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics. Least of all, protecting this right, which is a value I share, should never be done in a partisan manner.”
He recognizes that this legislation has become “overtly politicized” and took a swipe at the Republican legislatures in Georgia and Florida for passing laws that will require all voters to show an ID, writing that they “seek to needlessly restrict voting.” But he also criticized the Democrats “who ignore the need to secure our elections.”
If sweeping changes are made to election laws “in a partisan manner,” the Senator said it will guarantee that “partisan divisions continue to deepen.”
He points out the Democrats’ plan to eliminate the filibuster to pass this bill and reminds them of how important the filibuster has been “to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.”
As a reminder, just four short years ago, in 2017 when Republicans held control of the White House and Congress, President Donald Trump was publicly urging Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster. Then, it was Senate Democrats who were proudly defending the filibuster. Thirty-three Senate Democrats penned a letter to Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warning of the perils of eliminating the filibuster.
It has been said by much wiser people than me that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, what I’ve seen during my time in Washington is that every party in power will always want to exercise absolute power, absolutely. Our founders were wise to see the temptation of absolute power and built in specific checks and balances to force compromise that serves to preserve our fragile democracy. The Senate, its processes and rules, have evolved over time to make absolute power difficult while still delivering solutions to the issues facing our country and I believe that’s the Senate’s best quality.
Yes, this process can be frustrating and slow. It will force compromises that are not always ideal. But consider the alternative. Do we really want to live in an America where one party can dictate and demand everything and anything it wants, whenever it wants? I have always said, “If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.” And I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party’s agenda.
The truth is there is a better way – if we seek to find it together.
And he concludes:
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.
On Thursday, Manchin told NBC News’ Capital Hill correspondent Garrett Haake that he’s not interested in passing an infrastructure bill with only Democratic support. “Basically, we need to be bipartisan,” Manchin said.
Infrastructure by reconciliation? Manchin isn’t there.
GH. Are you ready to go it alone with just Democrats?@Sen_JoeManchin: No. I don’t think we should. I really don’t.
GH: At all?
Manchin: I don’t think, right now, basically, we need to be bipartisan.
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) June 3, 2021
This is excellent news for Republicans and we can even forgive him for disagreeing with us on the voter ID requirement.
This is the second blow in less than a week for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The first came from the Senate Parliamentarian. The majority party is allowed to use reconciliation twice in one year. The Democrats have used it once to pass the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill and have one opportunity left. Schumer believed he had found a way to get an extra shot, however, the parliamentarian ruled that it can’t be used to avoid a filibuster. Which is precisely how he had intended to use it. I posted about this story here.