Manchin, Murkowski call for bipartisan Voting Rights Act reauthorization
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are urging congressional leaders to advance a reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act that could garner bipartisan support.
Manchin and Murkowski, moderate-minded senators at the center of the Senate, sent a letter on Monday to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying that they “must not allow” voting to become a partisan issue.
“Inaction is not an option. Congress must come together – just as we have done time and again – to reaffirm our longstanding bipartisan commitment to free, accessible, and secure elections for all. We urge you to join us in calling for the bipartisan reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act through regular order. We can do this. We must do this,” they wrote in the letter.
Congress last reauthorized the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2006. But the Supreme Court, in 2013, gutted the law when it struck down the formula for determining if state and local governments were required to get Justice Department preclearance for voting and election changes, arguing that it was outdated.
Democrats have rallied around the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would revive the formula and try to strengthen the 1965 law.
But while previous reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act have gotten bipartisan support, the bill would likely face challenges getting the votes needed to defeat a filibuster in the Senate. Murkowski was the only GOP co-sponsor for the bill during the previous Congress.
Manchin and Murkowski, in their letter, don’t specifically throw their support behind one bill in particular.
“We reflect not just on the positive impact this legislation has had on individual Americans’ ability to exercise their most fundamental right – the right to vote – and the strength of our democracy writ large, but on the important work we still have to do to realize that promise of ensuring the right of all to vote,” they wrote.
Any legislation, they added, should go through the committee process, which would give senators the option of trying to make changes to the bill before it gets to the House or Senate floor. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has said he wants to take the John Lewis Voting Rights Act up through his panel.
Manchin’s push for Congress to focus on reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act comes as Democrats are eager to pass a broader bill known as the For the People Act that would overhaul elections.
But Manchin has repeatedly said he doesn’t support the bill, in part because he wants GOP support for any election-related bill that is taken up in Congress. The For the People Act passed the House earlier this year without GOP votes and has sparked unified GOP opposition in the Senate.