Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia penned an op-ed Sunday vowing to oppose the For the People Act when it hits the Senate floor later this month and reiterating his objections to eliminating the filibuster, effectively guaranteeing that the ambitious voting rights bill will fail to pass.
Published in West Virginia's Charleston Gazette-Mail, Manchin's op-ed comes as Republicans are pushing hundreds of voter suppression measures at the state level across the nation—attacks on the franchise that could be neutralized by passage of the For the People Act. According to the latest tally by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 14 states this year have enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote.
"Republicans in state legislatures aren't worried about getting bipartisan support to destroy our democracy."
—Meagan Hatcher-Mays, Indivisible
Given the enormous implications of the ongoing voting rights battle, Manchin's article drew a furious response from fellow members of Congress and progressive activists.
"Manchin's op-ed might as well be titled, 'Why I'll vote to preserve Jim Crow,'" tweeted Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.).
"We didn't need an op-ed to know you're unwilling to protect our democracy," Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) added.
The only Democratic senator who has refused to co-sponsor the For the People Act, Manchin wrote Sunday that he will vote against the bill this month because it has advanced through Congress without Republican support. In March, the House passed the bill along party lines and not a single Republican has backed the legislation in the Senate.
"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," Manchin claimed.
But critics were quick to slam the West Virginia Democrat's argument as incoherent, noting that his opposition to the For the People Act on the grounds that it's too partisan virtually ensures congressional inaction in the face of the GOP's sweeping partisan attacks on voting rights nationwide.
If enacted, the For the People Act (pdf) would overhaul the U.S. election system by implementing national automatic voter registration and other ballot-access measures, limiting the ability of states to purge voter rolls, restoring voting rights to people who have completed felony sentences, reforming the undemocratic redistricting process, and establishing a publicly financed small-dollar donation matching system for candidates who reject high-dollar contributions.
Despite Manchin's characterization of the measure as "partisan," a recent survey by Data for Progress found that some of the major changes proposed under the For the People Act are popular with Republican voters.
With the full Senate expected to vote on the bill this month, voting rights organizations are planning to "ratchet up pressure on Democrats... in coming weeks to do whatever it takes to pass the federal voting legislation they view as key to counteracting the blitz of new voting restrictions in Republican-led states," CNN reported Sunday.
"Activists plan to text, call, email, and go door-to-door to reach voters in states such as West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Arizona to urge Senate action," CNN noted. "Next week, the heads of the NAACP and other civil rights groups plan to press their case with Sen. Joe Manchin... whose opposition to dismantling the legislative filibuster in the Senate is viewed as a key impediment to passing voting rights legislation."
With the legislative filibuster in place, Senate Democrats need the support of every member of their caucus plus at least 10 Republicans to pass the For the People Act.
Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy at Indivisible, told CNN that "Republicans in state legislatures aren't worried about getting bipartisan support to destroy our democracy."
"Democrats," she added, "can't be worried about getting bipartisan support to fix it again."