Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s opposition to the massive elections reform package likely dooms legislation that a Utah senator described as written “by the devil himself.”
Manchin, of West Virginia, announced Sunday that he would vote against the For the People Act, the Democrats’ sweeping plan to require states to offer same-day voter registration, at least 15 days of early voting and expand access to mail-in voting for federal races. It also includes campaign finance and ethics reforms.
Protecting voting rights should never be done in a partisan manner, he said.
“It’s the wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together and unite our country, and I’m not supporting that, because I think it would divide us more,” Manchin said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I don’t want to be in a country that’s divided any further,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of great things in that piece of legislation, but there’s an awful lot of things that basically don’t pertain directly to voting.”
Republicans oppose the bill, which would require elimination of the Senate filibuster to be passed. The House narrowly passed the legislation earlier this year along party lines.
Manchin also said Sunday he doesn’t favor doing away with the 60-vote rule as some Democrats have suggested.
“They’ve attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past,” he wrote in an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised a vote soon on the legislation — which the 49 other Democratic-voting senators have co-sponsored — along with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would update the formula states and local governments must use to ensure proposed voting laws do not restrict the rights of any particular group. Manchin said he favors the second bill, which has bipartisan support.
Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee made headlines and late-night TV with his comments about the For the People Act in March.
He said he disagrees with every word in the bill, including “but, and, and the.”
“Everything about this bill is rotten to the core. This is a bill as if written in hell by the devil himself. This takes all sorts of decisions that the federal government really has no business making. It takes them away from the states, makes them right here in Washington, D.C., by Congress,” he said earlier.
Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel poked fun at Lee over the comment on the air in March.
“This is a bill that would expand voting rights and reform redistricting laws. Republicans in the Senate don’t like that because it limits their ability to prevent poor people from voting, and no one is more upset about it than Utah Sen. Mike Lee,” Kimmel said during his monologue before showing a clip of Lee.
Kimmel then chuckles and says, “The devil is not in hell writing bills. The devil is in Mar-a-Lago eating fried chicken.”
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Monday that he opposes the Democratic proposal.
“At a time when we should be working to increase confidence in our elections, this partisan bill would do the opposite,” He said. “Federal legislation on these issues must be the result of Republicans and Democrats working together to find common ground, not solely by my Democratic colleagues who are attempting to rewrite election laws for their own political benefit.”
Utah’s four Republican House members voted against the bill.
On Tuesday, Democratic Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill joined 95 prosecutors, attorneys general and law enforcement leaders around the county urging Congress to pass both the voting bills.
“As officers of the justice system, we must help restore integrity and confidence in our system of government. We do that today by urging state leaders across the country to stop passing laws that limit and criminalize voting. We likewise call for leaders at all levels of government to prioritize measures to protect the franchise,” they said in a statement issued through Fair and Justice Prosecution, a network of prosecutors that promotes criminal justice reform.