Biden hosts Manchin, Sinema at White House to discuss voting rights
President Biden met with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (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.
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 Lewis 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.”
“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.