‘Manchin must wake up’ or face up: Progressives demand floor debate on pro-democracy bill

“79% of West Virginia voters support the For the People Act,” said Common Cause. “Why doesn’t Sen. Joe Manchin?”

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SOURCECommon Dreams

Demanding that lawmakers go on the record regarding their views on the For the People Act, pro-democracy campaigners on Monday called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring the voting rights bill up for a full debate on the Senate floor.

The day after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) published an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, falsely claiming passage of the For the People Act (S. 1) would be an example of “partisan policymaking” and vowing to vote against the measure because of its lack of Republican support, Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn demanded that the fight against disenfranchisement “does not end with an op-ed.”

Hobert Flynn called on Schumer to bring S. 1 to the floor for a vote and demanded that Manchin “allow the debate to take place on the floor and not just in the op-ed pages.”

“If Senate Republicans try to filibuster such a motion to proceed to a full floor debate, Senator Manchin should not join such a filibuster,” Hobert Flynn said regarding the congressional maneuver which Manchin supports and which all but guarantees the For the People Act will be voted down, as the Democrats would need 10 Republicans to join them in passing the bill. 

As Hobert Flynn noted, Manchin insisted in the pages of the Gazette-Mail on Sunday that the For the People Act is a partisan measure, even though 79% of his own constituents including 76% of West Virginia Republicans support the legislation.

In an email to supporters, the progressive political action committee Justice Democrats emphasized that when Manchin claims the bill doesn’t have bipartisan support, “he isn’t talking about the two-thirds of voters that support it. He is referring to the right-wing politicians and corporations fighting against the right of Americans to make their voice heard.”

Moreover, Hobert Flynn suggested, Manchin is vastly overvaluing bipartisanship when it comes to passing legislation to guarantee Americans basic rights.

“The 14th and 15th Amendments—granting citizenship and the right to vote to formerly enslaved people after the Civil War—were passed by Congress on party-line votes,” said Hobert Flynn. “We ask Senator Manchin—should Congress not have passed those? Republican intransigence on voting rights is not an excuse for inaction and Senator Manchin must wake up to this fact.”

The For the People Act would implement automatic voter registration nationwide, stop states from purging voter rolls, restore voting rights to people who are formerly incarcerated for felonies, and enhance access to the democratic process in a number of other ways. 

By vowing to oppose the bill, Hobert Flynn said, Manchin is giving tacit approval to “the Republican strategy for the 2022 elections—not to find a platform that attracts more voters but to pick and choose who votes and who doesn’t.”

“When he comes to the realization that Republicans in the Senate are not acting in good faith, [Manchin] is going to have to make a decision about whether he is more committed to an unattainable quest for 10 Republican votes; or to the millions of Americans—particularly Black and brown Americans—who will be disenfranchised if he doesn’t support the For the People Act,” said Hobert Flynn. 

The Common Cause leader’s statement came as the nationwide grassroots coalition People’s Action released a letter to senators demanding they bring the debate over the For the People Act to the Senate floor.

“We desperately need the Senate to lean in and save and reform our democracy,” wrote the group, which includes 40 state-level and local member organizations. “We cannot wait for action on this any longer. We urge Congress to make this pro-voter, anti-corruption legislation a priority NOW.”

The calls for congressional action came as 14 states have enacted at least 22 voter suppression laws so far this year, with Republican legislatures working to pass dozens more. 

“Most of us believe that voters pick our leaders—our leaders do not get to pick their voters,” wrote George Goehl, Bree Carlson, and Sondra Youdelman of People’s Action. “This, however, is not what we are currently experiencing. Instead, a handful of extremist politicians put up barriers to silence our voices based on what we look like or where we live.”

With a “backlash against democracy” in full force, the group added, “The Senate must bring this legislation to the floor for a vote immediately.”

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