“I would ask you to consider this question,” he wrote. “If the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the state level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?”
Schumer made note that Manchin’s predecessor, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, said in 1979 that sometimes Senate rules that seemed appropriate “must be changed to reflect changed circumstance.”
“I believe our constituents deserve to know which senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and abused rules and which senators prefer to restore Senate floor procedures to better align with the founders’ intentions,” Schumer wrote. That’s a message intended for both Manchin and Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who has joined with Manchin in opposing filibuster reform.
Given the Manchin kerfuffle over the weekend, it’s hard to know just which way the backlash will hit—48 Democrats brow-beating those two into submission, or those two completely digging in on their positions.
What we do know for sure is that if voting rights and election reforms aren’t passed right away, Congress and probably the White House are lost for the foreseeable future. Republican-led states are making sure of that.
In addition to the 34 new state laws to restrict voting that passed in 2021 in 19 states (out of more than 440 bills introduced in 49 states), more than a dozen new restrictions have been profiled by Republican legislators in Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Republican legislators in Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Tennessee are to allow partisan ballot review and nine states will bring up a total of 88 restrictive bills held over from the last legislative session.
Why they’re doing this is no mystery. Even Trump gets it.
Republicans have to cheat to continue to win. And they will. Happily and with gusto. With violence, too, as Jan. 6 attests.
“There is a continual drumbeat from the former president that the election was stolen—this is an issue that state legislators feel pressure from Trump from above and from the base from below that’s demanding that steps be taken,” Rick Hasen, a professor and election law expert at the University of California at Irvine told NBC News. “So this is an issue that’s going to remain, unfortunately, front and center.”
Wendy Weiser, the vice president of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, told NBC: “What we’ve seen passed this year is more than a third of all the voting restrictions that have passed in the last decade happened this year.” They are clearly designed to eliminate Democratic-leaning voters, she added. “The way a lot of these voting restrictions work, they work by making it harder just for a subset of the electorate to vote—and that tends to disproportionately be voters of color, sometimes students, but they’re very targeted,” Weiser said.
The Freedom to Vote Act that Schumer wrote about in his letter was crafted by a group of Senate Democrats including Manchin. While it’s not as expansive as the For the People Act passed by the House, which Manchin opposes, it’s a robust bill and has been endorsed by all the voting rights and election reform advocates. Manchin has invested time and effort into this bill. He also supports the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Both have been repeatedly filibustered by Republicans.
Which also means that this isn’t the first time we’ve heard Schumer’s tough talk about forcing votes. Senate Democrats have been working on a filibuster reform plan this fall, keeping Manchin in the loop. The question now is whether Manchin is prepared to burn all his bridges and accept Mitch McConnell’s invitation, or whether he’s smart enough to realize he’s got the nation’s future in his hands and can either go down in history as the one person responsible for saving it or destroying it.