Manchin Breaks With Pelosi, Sinks Nancy’s ‘For The People’ Bill But Will Back Slimmer Version

Nancy Pelosi saw an opportunity to jam through a sweeping new voting bill, the ‘For the People Act,’ and she got closer than many think. But she just suffered a big defeat that is certain to sink the bill. Joe Manchin just stepped in and slammed the door shut on her bill saying he will back a smaller, less controversial bill.

Manchin said that Pelosi’s voting bill just does not have the votes. The Dems are still furious with two Supreme Court decisions – Citizens United and the court’s decision to gut the voting rights act of 65. The New York Times wrote in 2013: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.

“The court divided along ideological lines, and the two sides drew sharply different lessons from the history of the civil rights movement and the nation’s progress in rooting out racial discrimination in voting. At the core of the disagreement was whether racial minorities continued to face barriers to voting in states with a history of discrimination.

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Pelosi and the Dems were furious and have long wanted to fix that decision with new legislation. So when she saw a chance to do it, no matter that it would further divide the country, she took it and tried to ram it through.

Enter Sen. Joe Manchin who just said Pelosi’s “For the people act’ is DOA because it does not have the votes (and he won’t break the filibuster), but that he is willing to back a slimmer less controversial option – the John Lewis Voting Rights Act – instead.

“I believe Democrats and Republicans feel very strongly about protecting the ballot boxes allowing people to protect the right to vote, making it accessible, making it fair and making it secure, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, if we apply that to all 50 states and territories, it’s something that can be done — it should be done,” Manchin said.

“It could be done bipartisan to start getting confidence back in our system,” he said.

This week the Senate held contentious meetings about the future of the Democratic-led For the People Act. They will meet today to discuss the 800-page bill. 

Manchin said that during these meetings it became clear that the bill does not have the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate and go to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“No matter what was brought up it was partisan vote, 9-9,” Manchin said.

“This is one of the most — I think — important things that we can do to try to bring our country back together and if we do it in a partisan way, it’s not going to be successful, I believe.”

Now the bill Manchin is backing would try to reestablish some of what the Supreme Court struck down so there is no guarantee that the bill will survive a challenge. The Times wrote in 2013:

Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion. Justice Ginsburg was joined in dissent by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

The majority held that the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, originally passed in 1965 and most recently updated by Congress in 1975, was unconstitutional.

The section determined which states must receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before they made minor changes to voting procedures, like moving a polling place, or major ones, like redrawing electoral districts.

Section 5, which sets out the preclearance requirement, was originally scheduled to expire in five years. Congress repeatedly extended it: for five years in 1970, seven years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982.

Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years. But it relied on data from the 1975 reauthorization to decide which states and localities were covered.

The current coverage system, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, is “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”

“Congress — if it is to divide the states — must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions,” he wrote. “It cannot simply rely on the past.”

The decision did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4, the later section is without significance — unless Congress passes a new bill for determining which states would be covered.

It was hardly clear, at any rate, that the court’s conservative majority would uphold Section 5 if the question returned to the court in the unlikely event that Congress enacted a new coverage formula.

In a concurrence, Justice Thomas called for striking down Section 5 immediately, saying that the majority opinion had provided the reasons and had merely left “the inevitable conclusion unstated.”

 

 

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