Schumer is still planning to put the bill to a vote at the end of June. But the Democrats are clearly weighing the way forward. Manchin has expressed support for another voting rights act known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would help protect existing voting protections and reinvigorate a requirement that states obtain “pre-approval” from the federal government they make major changes to the tuning of their laws. A civil rights-era federal law only required preliminary screening of certain southern states with a history of discriminatory electoral practices before being gutted by the Supreme Court in a 2013 ruling. Manchin has expressed its support for the reintroduction of this pre-authorization lockdown for all 50 states, a threshold that has also found support from Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
But the John Lewis bill is more limited in scope than the For The People Act, and while it would help protect voting rights in future elections, it would not address any of the GOP’s current efforts to suppress voters in the states. The passage of the John Lewis bill has also been held until at least the fall as certain challenges have been brought to justice.
Of course, minority leader Mitch McConnell is against both – no electoral protection on his guard. On Tuesday he criticized the John Lewis law as granting “The Department of Justice has almost full power to dictate the electoral systems of every state in America. “
The bottom line is that neither of the two Senate voting laws is viable without either getting 10 GOP votes or changing the 60-vote threshold created by the filibuster. Although both occurrences are highly unlikely, the modification of the filibuster remains the more likely of the two.
At the moment, the Democrats are still trying to figure out exactly which provisions of the For The People Act Manchin is opposed to. So far, he has not specified his concerns and has also spoken out in favor of certain provisions, such as require at least 15 days early voting, including weekends.
Progressive Democrats also seem ready to consider some changes to the For The People Act before a vote later this month, but they need clear guidance from Manchin on his concerns about the current legislation he has been required to outline.
Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono told the Journal she was ready to endorse a more limited bill if the Democrats can get Manchin’s objections under control.
“For example, I honestly don’t know where Joe stands in terms of actual provisions because if we’re going to achieve anything we have to talk about actual provisions,” she said.
Many of the provisions of the bill are well received by voters, including critical ones related to Preventing foreign interference, increasing electoral security and establishing a non-partisan redistribution – all of this is achieved with an agreement of around 75% or more. So there are the building blocks of a substantial voting rights law, perhaps more extensive than the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but less extensive than the For The People Act. And when Manchin stands by his word, he supports the basic principle of protecting the right to vote.
“I am very concerned about our democracy, about protecting the voting rights of the people, to make sure that this happens, and to make sure that we understand how fragile, how fragile we are as a country today,” Manchin said on Tuesday a meeting with Civil rights activists like Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP, and Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League.
That said, it’s still possible to get important Senate voting rights, but threading that needle will be extremely difficult. The first step in business will surely be creating a bill that Manchin can support, which could simply mean tweaking For The People or possibly merging elements of the two laws. With several other Republicans ready to join in, Senate Democrats can argue that it is worth handing over critical safeguards to our democracy, which has bipartisan support to create a workaround for the filibuster, even if it’s just one Acts on a case-by-case basis.