Senate

Manchin, Murkowski back revised John Lewis voting rights bill

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Tuesday signed on to a revised voting rights bill, named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a day before a key test vote in the Senate.

Manchin and Murkowski, along with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), announced that they had reached a deal on changes to the bill that all Democrats except Manchin rolled out last month.

“In the weeks and months ahead, I am committed to building support for this bipartisan compromise that addresses the threats to voting rights across our nation without infringing on states’ rights so that it can move through regular order with bipartisan support,” Manchin said in a statement.

Murkowski added that the revised bill “provides a starting point as we seek broader bipartisan consensus on how best to ensure that.”

Though Manchin and Murkowski have both supported the John Lewis bill in previous Congresses they weren’t listed as co-sponsors to the bill Democrats rolled out last month. 

That bill, as it was introduced in October, would update the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to strengthen sections of the 1965 law that were gutted by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which focused on Section 5 of the VRA that required Justice Department preclearance before some states could change voting laws, and the 2021 Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee decision, which advocates believe weakened Section 2 of the 1965 law focused on racially targeted voting policies.

The new bill, backed by Manchin and Murkowski, makes several changes, including what factors courts can consider when determining if Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has been violated.

The bill also drops a requirement for localities with growing minority populations to get preclearance for changes on offering food or drinks to people waiting in line to vote. The change has been included under the earlier version of the bill’s new requirement for “practice-based” preclearance. 

The Senate will vote on Wednesday to start debate on the legislation. But because Murkowski is the only Republican expected to vote yes, the bill will fall short of the 60 votes needed to move forward.

“I have made clear time and time again: Democrats are open for business – we want Republicans to engage. I am prepared to offer an open and honest and full-fledged process here on the Senate floor, where Republican amendments will be made in order and allowed and debated,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday.

“But for that to happen, Republicans must come to the table when we vote tomorrow. We can’t force so much as a debate if at least 10 Republicans don’t join us and vote in favor of letting the Senate do its work on this most important—this most vital—of issues,” he added.

Updated at 4:16 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Dick Durbin Joe Manchin John Lewis Lisa Murkowski Patrick Leahy voting rights Voting Rights Act vra
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