Biden hosts Manchin, Sinema at White House to discuss voting rights

President BidenJoe BidenCourt nixes offshore drilling leases auctioned by Biden administration Laquan McDonald's family pushes for federal charges against officer ahead of early release Biden speaks with Ukrainian president amid Russian threat MORE met with Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Health Care — ObamaCare gets record numbers On The Money — Economy had post-recession growth in 2021 Progressives apply pressure on Biden, Senate to pass Build Back Better MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaClyburn calls for full-court press on voting rights Swing-state voters concerned about Build Back Better's impact on inflation: poll Voto Latino CEO: Sinema will have a 'very difficult pathway' in 2024 reelection MORE (D-Ariz.) on Thursday evening about voting rights as the president looks to find a path forward to passing legislation.   

The White House said that the meeting began at 5:30pm and lasted for over an hour. A White House official later described the discussion as a "candid and respectful exchange of views about voting rights," without offering further details. 

The election reform bills are on the brink of failure in the Senate unless Biden can convince the senators’ to throw their support behind altering the filibuster to overcome GOP opposition.  

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The closed-door meeting comes hours after Biden went to Capitol Hill to attend a Senate Democratic caucus lunch to discuss the voting rights bills, which have been stalled in the Senate amid Republican opposition.  

Biden is trying to change both senators’ minds on altering the legislative filibuster, the 60-vote threshold required to advance most legislation, in order to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John LewisJohn LewisIt's time for 'Uncle Joe' to take off the gloves against Manchin and Sinema Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time MORE Voting Rights Advancement Act.  

However, Manchin and Sinema, centrist Democrats, both reiterated their opposition to eliminating or weakening the filibuster earlier Thursday and it’s unclear what Biden could say to alter their positions.  

Biden himself acknowledged earlier Thursday that he wasn’t sure whether Democrats could pass both bills but pledged to keep fighting.  

“The honest-to-God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done,” Biden told reporters after leaving a lengthy meeting with Senate Democrats. “I hope we can get this done, but I’m not sure.”  

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“Like every other major civil rights bill that came along, if we miss the first time, we can come back and try the second time,” he said.  

In a speech on the Senate floor shortly before Biden arrived at the Capitol, Sinema said that she would not support weakening the filibuster because she believe it would exacerbate divisions in the U.S. 

“I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” Sinema said during a Senate floor speech.   

And shortly after Biden left, Manchin issued a statement arguing that those advocating for changing the filibuster “do so without fully understanding the long-term institutional and democratic damage this will do to the Senate and our nation” and said that doing so would “pour fuel onto the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart.” 

Updated Friday at 7:35 a.m.