(USA Features) West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said in an op-ed published in a state newspaper Sunday he would not support a bill crafted by his party that critics say will give the central government unprecedented control over elections for federal office.
“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,” Manchin’s column in the Charleston Gazette-Mail noted.
“Throughout my tenure in politics, I have been guided by this simple philosophy — our party labels can’t prevent us from doing what is right,” he said, reflecting on his time as West Virginia’s secretary of state, and then governor.
“Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. 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 wrote.
“Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it,” the Democratic senator continued.
“As such, 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,” he noted further.
Democrats and Republicans are evenly divided in the Senate, 50-50, though with Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote, Manchin’s party effectively controls the chamber. Many Democrats have been pushing for the legislation, called the “For The People Act,” which narrowly passed the House earlier this year 220-210.
Republicans have ripped the bill because they say it takes away states’ historic and constitutional role to set rules and make laws governing elections and gives that power to the federal government. They also say the legislation nationalizes many of the most controversial aspects surrounding voting in several battleground states during the 2020 election, such as universal mail-in ballots, drive-through voting, and taking away states’ ability to update voter registration lists.
For his part, Manchin believes any voting reforms should be broadly bipartisan after no Republicans have supported the For the People Act.
“This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support,” Manchin wrote. “Why? Are the very Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump because of actions that led to an attack on our democracy unwilling to support actions to strengthen our democracy? Are these same senators, whom many in my party applauded for their courage, now threats to the very democracy we seek to protect?
“The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.”
He also wrote that the Senate filibuster rule must also remain in place, reminding members of his party that when then-President Donald Trump called for it to be lifted, many Democrats opposed.
“…[S]ome Democrats have again proposed eliminating the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass the For the People Act with only Democratic support. They’ve attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past,” Manchin wrote.
“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,” he added.
“It has been said by much wiser people than me that absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Manchin added. “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.”