On Sunday Manchin announced that he would oppose HR 1 is He opposes limiting filibustering to pass any other voting rights legislation, arguing that electoral reform is the kind of thing that desperately requires bipartisan support for legitimacy. However, he assured his party that he supported the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore the federal government’s power to review voting law changes by states with a dubious history of protecting voting rights. Lisa Murkowski has already supported the Lewis Act, Manchin noted in her editorial, so a bipartisanism on this issue is clearly possible.
Except it isn’t. There will be no compromise on any federal voting rights legislation. Not HR 1, not the Lewis Act, nothing. Too many Republican voters have gone too far in believing that the loose voting rules during last year’s pandemic were somehow responsible for Trump’s deception. And underlying that suspicion, I believe, is a deeper concern than perhaps Trump it was not scammed, that there are only more Democrats than there are Republicans in the United States, and that their advantage is likely to widen as older right-wing whites are replaced in the electorate by younger left-wing minorities. Making low propensity to vote easier can only make it easier for the Democrats to win, or so fear wills. Trump himself said last year that switching to a mail-order system in the United States would mean that no Republican would ever win the election again. Many party members agree with this, superficially because postal voting is easier to fake, but also because of the nagging fear that higher turnout necessarily means victory for the Democrats.
Which is ironic, because the GOP had enough random voters last fall to make this hypothesis falter. High-turnout elections aren’t necessarily blue elections, even if things didn’t work out for Trump himself on November 3.
The point, however, is that Republicans in Congress who join Democrats to strengthen the feds’ hand in protecting voting rights will be seen from their base as a threat to state “electoral integrity” laws passed by Republican lawmakers such as those in Georgia and Texas. They will be accused of complicity in cheating. And so there is no way that Manchin will find 10 Republicans to accompany the Lewis Act or anything else.
It is not stupid. He certainly realizes that sticking to the filibuster on this issue means no voting reforms will go through. But in case there were any doubts, Mitch McConnell made it clear this afternoon.
Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, some states were required to submit any proposed changes to their voting laws to the DOJ (or the federal judiciary) for approval to make sure those laws did not restrict voting rights based on race. This was known as “pre-authorization,” an unusual legislative exception to state sovereignty under the Fifteenth Amendment designed to override Jim Crow’s restrictions on voting, primarily in the South. Twice Congress passed statutes extending pre-authorization under the VRA, the last time in 2006. Among the 12 Senate Republicans who voted in favor it was Mitch McConnell. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court declared the pre-authorization rules in the VRA obsolete because they were based on models of racial discrimination in the vote that they no longer obtained. If Congress were to continue pre-authorization, the court said, it would have to come up with a new formula for determining which states should be subject to federal pre-authorization before changing their voting laws.
This is what the Lewis Act would do. But apparently no one but Manchin thinks he has a chance to pass, including Murkowski:
“I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s a challenge. I think we just have to be honest with it,” Murkowski said. “You have to find a lot of Republicans to join us in this.” …
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the former head of vote counter for the Republican caucus, said he is against the measure and intends to speak to his colleagues “so they understand what the implications are.”
“Basically it’s about doing from the back door what the Democrats are trying to do through the front door on S.1 and HR1,” he said, using Congressional names for the bills. “What I don’t want to happen is if S.1 can’t make it because people like Sen. Manchins object to people saying, ‘Well, that’s kind of a less inclusive arrangement.’ It is just as big a problem as S.1. “
“Why are we talking about it if this too will not be below the threshold of 60 votes? So this is an abstraction, “Democrat Brian Schatz told CNN about the Lewis Act.” My view is that anyone who sees filibuster as a key element in maintaining democracy has an obligation to be part of the group. which produces 10 votes for something meaningful. “Grassroots Democrats are furious with Manchin, but lack significant levers to pressure him. Their contempt only endears him to the very Republican electorate of West Virginia, and they don’t want to alienate him knowing they’ll need his vote on other priorities, like confirmation from Biden’s judges.
Some lefties in their frustration have started targeting Chuck Schumer for not doing more to lean on Manchin. Schumer has an election in sight next year and has worked hard to stay in the graces of the left, not wanting to be rewarded by a progressive like AOC. Suddenly Manchin caused a rift between the majority leader and his base.
The bottom line is that neither HR 1 nor the Lewis Act would do much to address the real threat in 2024. So far, Republican state legislations have been held back from tinkering with electoral laws; despite all the Democratic screams about Jim Crow, neither Georgia nor Texas have done anything draconian to restrict voting in their new laws. There’s plenty of time before 2024 for them to pass further restrictions – Trump will urge them to, no doubt – but I think they’re unlikely to take the political risk of targeting black voters. If they try to cheat the election, they won’t be on the front-end, they’ll be on the back-end, after the votes have come. Trump made a timid effort last year to pressure GOP lawmakers in the states he lost (most notably Michigan) to cancel their results for fraud and appoint his own group of voters, but he did not prepare the political ground in advance. He threw it at them in desperation, almost like an afterthought. He won’t make this mistake in 2024. He has learned now that it is not possible to overturn a state election without having loyalists in key roles, which is why Trumper Jody Hice is challenging Brad Raffensperger in Georgia for the post of Secretary of State. His campaign to pressure Republican lawmakers to consider appointing their own constituents will also begin much earlier in 2024, not weeks after the votes have already been counted.
If Congressional Democrats are keen to avoid a crisis in the upcoming presidential election, this is the problem they should aim to solve, not bring back the “pre-authorization”. But how? Does Congress have the constitutional authority to prevent a state legislature from appointing a particular list of voters? A 6-3 Supreme Court would not look fondly on an attempt by Congress to meddle in the election. And the Fifteenth Amendment would probably not help as it authorizes legislation to prevent the restriction of voting rights based on race, not legislation to prevent a state legislator from passing a judgment on the fraud and assigning his or her constituents accordingly. (Democrats allegedly sued and claimed that black voters supporting the Democratic candidate were summarily deprived of voting rights under the VRA when the legislator chose to assign his constituents to the Republican candidate who lost the election. ) Legislation to prevent states from overturning the will of their voters is what Schumer and Manchin should be thinking about, not voting on reform laws.
But of course they won’t even have 10 Republicans for that. Until Manchin is ready to talk about changing the filibuster, all electoral legislation is dead.
Here he is after meeting civil rights leaders today. Nice discussion, he says. But no, it doesn’t support HR 1.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) describes an “excellent meeting” with civil rights leaders, but when asked if his stance on the voting rights bill has changed: “No.” pic.twitter.com/8Fmqs6KFWa
– The recount (@therecount) June 8, 2021