Politics & Policy

Progressive Rep. Calls Manchin ‘the New Mitch McConnell’ over H.R. 1 Dissent

Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) speaks during an oversight hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 16, 2020. (Toni Sandys/Reuters Pool)

Representative Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.) on Monday accused Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) of “doing everything in his power to stop democracy” and claimed that the moderate Democrat has become the “new Mitch McConnell.”

Bowman’s comments come after Manchin came out against Democrats’ sweeping voter rights legislation in an essay for the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday. 

While Democrats have claimed their “For the People Act” is necessary in light of the Republican “assault” on voter rights, Manchin said he would vote against the bill over concern that any partisan voting legislation “will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy.” 

On Monday, Bowman compared Manchin to McConnell, the Senate minority leader, saying “Mitch McConnell, during Obama’s presidency, said he would do everything in his power to stop Obama. He’s also repeated that now during the Biden presidency.”

“And now Joe Manchin is doing everything in his power to stop democracy and to stop our work for the people,” he said. 

“Manchin is not pushing us closer to bipartisanship, he is doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist, just like they’ve been since the beginning of Biden’s presidency,” he added.

Bowman is one of a growing number of Democrats who are frustrated with Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) for wielding outsized power in the evenly-divided Senate where the party needs every Democratic senator’s support to reach a simple majority.

Manchin said Sunday that he would not support the “For the People Act,” which would override hundreds of state laws governing elections, federalize control of voting and elections to an unprecedented degree, and end two centuries of state power to draw congressional districts.

It would require states to automatically register eligible voters and offer same-day voter registration. It would also require states to offer no-excuse absentee balloting, as well as 15 days of early voting.

“Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized,” wrote Manchin, who previously served as West Virginia’s secretary of state. “Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage. Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it.”

He adds that any federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both parties joining together to find a compromise lest lawmakers “risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials”

However, it is unlikely Democrats will be able to find the 60 votes needed to advance the legislation in the Senate. This has led many progressives to argue that the Senate should eliminate the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold to allow Democrats to pass their agenda with a simple majority.

In his essay published on Sunday, Manchin also reaffirmed his position that he will not vote to eliminate the filibuster.

He notes that Democrats have “attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.”

“As a reminder, just four short years ago, in 2017 when Republicans held control of the White House and Congress, President Donald Trump was publicly urging Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster,” he said. “Then, it was Senate Democrats who were proudly defending the filibuster. Thirty-three Senate Democrats penned a letter to Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warning of the perils of eliminating the filibuster.”

“Yes, this process can be frustrating and slow,” he writes. “It will force compromises that are not always ideal. But consider the alternative. Do we really want to live in an America where one party can dictate and demand everything and anything it wants, whenever it wants? I have always said, ‘If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.’ And I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party’s agenda.”

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