House

In shot at Manchin, Pelosi calls for Senate to strengthen voting rights

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday urged the Senate to approve a sweeping expansion of voting protections, dismissing the objections of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) with warnings that the integrity of elections is at stake.

The legislation “must become law in order to respect the sanctity of the vote, which is the basis of our democracy,” Pelosi wrote in a Dear Colleague letter to House Democrats.

Passed by the House earlier in the year, the For the People Act aims to lower barriers to voting by simplifying registration, authorizing early and remote voting and restricting the power of states to purge names from voting rolls. It’s also designed to rein in partisan gerrymandering and diminish the role of money in campaigns.

Manchin on Sunday stunned Democrats by announcing his opposition to the legislation, also known as H.R. 1, which stands among the top priorities of both congressional Democrats and the Biden administration. Writing in a local paper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail, Manchin explained that he didn’t object to the content of the proposal, per se, but to the absence of even a single Republican supporter.

“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act,” Manchin wrote.

Manchin did promote another election-themed bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would update the 1965 Voting Rights Act following a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted central provisions of the seminal law. Manchin noted that the John Lewis proposal, named for the late civil rights hero and Georgia Democrat, enjoys the support of a Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), motivating his support.

“Of course, some in my party have argued that now is the time to discard such bipartisan voting reforms and embrace election reforms and policies solely supported by one party. Respectfully, I do not agree,” he wrote.

The declaration sparked an immediate outcry from liberals on and off of Capitol Hill, who accused Manchin of rewarding Republican obstructionism and empowering GOP-led states to roll back the same voting protections enshrined under the Democrats’ bill.

Pelosi did not mention Manchin in Tuesday’s letter, but her decision to invoke Lewis made clear that he was on her mind.

“H.R. 4 must be passed,” she said, referring to the Lewis bill, “but it will not be ready until the fall, and it is not a substitute for H.R. 1.”

“Congressman John Lewis wrote 300 pages of H.R. 1 to end voter suppression,” she continued. “H.R. 1/S. 1 must be passed now. It would be our hope to have this pass the House and Senate in a bipartisan way.”

Pelosi also used Tuesday’s letter to promote bipartisan legislation establishing an independent commission to investigate the Capitol attack of Jan. 6. Although the proposal was co-authored by a Republican, Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), and won support from 35 Republicans in the House, it fell three votes shy of defeating a GOP filibuster in the evenly split Senate.

A growing number of Democrats are urging Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to bring the bill back to the floor, an option Schumer has not ruled out.

Pelosi appeared to add her name to that list on Tuesday, saying she’s “still hoping the Senate will pass the January 6th Commission” bill.

“If not,” she added, “we will be prepared to seek and find the truth of the assault on the Capitol, our Congress and our Democracy.”

Tags Charles Schumer For the People Act Jan. 6 attack Joe Manchin John Katko John Lewis John Lewis Voting Rights Act Lisa Murkowski Nancy Pelosi voting rights

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