Joe Manchin Throws Voting Rights Under The Bipartisan Bus
Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia is obsessed with bipartisanship. He probably can't name anything good or helpful for the American people that bipartisanship has produced during his entire Senate career, which admittedly isn't that long or distinguished. When he won the special election to replace the late Robert Byrd in 2010, Amy Klobuchar was already in the Senate. Patty Murray has represented Washington since Nirvana was releasing records but she doesn't share Manchin's curious devotion to the filibuster or, as it's known in practice, the "Democrat Face Puncher 9000."
The Senate is currently debating the For the People Act, which is in essence a “Stop Republicans From Cheating" bill. Even really dumb Republicans such as Ron Johnson and Marsha Blackburn, who can barely find their couch in their living room, aren't dumb enough to support a "Stop Republicans From Cheating" bill. This is why the bill is DOA as long as Republicans have the "Democrat Face Puncher 9000" handy.
But Manchin is convinced there's a bipartisan solution. He's the one who deserves the nickname "Sleepy Joe"; he obviously hasn't been awake for the past decade. Manchin favors more “measured voting reform," so presumably a “Stop Republicans From Cheating Too Much" bill. He said he'd support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which is more “narrowly tailored" legislation. It would specifically restore elements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the Supreme Court gutted because Chief Justice John Roberts thought racism was over. (He'd probably just fallen asleep while watching The Help.) We should definitely pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but it's already died once in committee because Republicans won't willingly stop cheating. They have to do it. It's part of their lifestyle.
Here's what Manchin told ABC News's Rachel Scott:
I believe Democrats and Republicans feel very strongly about protecting the ballot boxes, allowing people to protect the right to vote, making it accessible, making it fair and making it secure and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, if we apply that to all 50 states and territories, it's something that can be done — it should be done. It could be done bipartisan to start getting confidence back in our system.
I'm not sure I agree 100 percent with his police work there. I've seen no evidence that Republicans "feel very strongly" about "allowing people to protect the right to vote." They keep passing "Help Republicans Cheat More" bills, which seems like a hint and half for Manchin's ass. But Manchin thinks we need “more measured voting reform" to regain confidence in the system from the very people who lie about election fraud so they can suppress the vote. Manchin also supports “more measured gun safety laws," by which we mean none. He opposes the House's gun safety bill and is still pushing the compromise hack job he put together with Senator Pat Toomey. Their so-called “Gun Sense" bill stalled in the Senate, even after children were massacred at Sandy Hook, because Republicans wipe their asses with bipartisanship.
Republicans uniformly oppose the For the People Act, calling it a “partisan power grab." When people freely vote, Democrats sometimes win, and Republicans won't stand for it. Senator Ted Cruz called the bill “Jim Crow 2.0" because he's gross enough to think that's appropriate rhetoric from a political party with three Black members in its entire congressional caucus. He also won re-election with only 10 percent of the Black vote. Black people don't like Ted Cruz. It's what we have most in common with white people.
Cruz and other Republicans have wasted everyone's time with proposed amendments to the For the People Act, and Maine Senator Angus King cut through the crap Tuesday and asked Cruz if he'd even vote for the bill if the amendments passed.
Cruz responded that the answer is essentially no:
"To be candid, it is difficult to imagine a set of amendments being adopted that would cause me to vote for this bill — it would have to be a fundamentally different bill."
"That being said, each of these amendments is a designed to strike out egregious aspects of this bill, so if some of these amendments were adopted, it might conceivably convince some Republicans to support it, if it ceased being a partisan power grab."
Republicans pulled the same scam with Biden's COVID-19 relief package. They successfully added amendments but still voted against the final bill. That didn't keep them from later going out and taking credit for all the good stuff, which only passed with Democratic votes. They are just that shameless. However, they have nothing to gain politically from a "Stop Republicans From Cheating" bill, no matter how bowdlerized. The same applies for the John Lewis Voting Act. The Supreme Court's hit job on the VRA likely helped the one-term loser win the Electoral College in 2016. It was easier to buy a gun than it was to vote in most red states, and five years later, Republicans are still talking about the “purity of the ballot box." You don't need a ring from Little Orphan Annie to decipher that code.
Black people are only three percent of West Virginia's population, which is within the margin of error, so maybe defending our voting rights isn't a big priority for the real "Sleepy Joe." He's probably not actively opposed, but he doesn't want to abandon “bipartisanship." Not that it will matter either way when he's up for re-election in 2024. This is West Virginia, a state that the twice-impeached thug carried last year by almost 40 points. A lot's changed since 2012 when Manchin won his first full term with 61 percent of the vote. He was re-elected in 2018 with just under 50 percent of the vote and will likely lose his seat in 2024 with no percent of the vote. He might as well do the right thing while he still has a chance, but with today's GOP, the right thing is rarely bipartisan.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."