WASHINGTON — When Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) announced his opposition to the Democrats’ sprawling reform bill to rein in dark money, gerrymandering, and voter suppression, that bill, the For the People Act, was declared all but dead. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, says reports of the bill’s death are, if not greatly exaggerated, then at least premature.
In an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, host Dana Bash asked Pelosi about the status of For the People Act — also known as H.R. 1 in the House and S. 1 in the Senate — and whether it could still pass. Pelosi said she had read Manchin’s op-ed and believed the senator had not closed the door on passing a version of the bill.
Pelosi replied that she said had spoken with Manchin and that he had “certain concerns about the legislation that we may be able to come to terms on.”
“So it’s bridgeable?” Bash asked.
“I think so,” Pelosi said. “As I said to him, ‘I read the op-ed. You left the door open.’ ”
A senior congressional aide tells Rolling Stone that Pelosi and Manchin have spoken several times of late. They discussed not only the For the People Act but also legislation to create a commission that would investigate the January 6th insurrection on Capitol Hill. Senate Republicans filibustered a previous bill to create a January 6th commission in late May.
Right now, the For the People Act faces long odds of success in the Senate. (The House voted on party lines to pass the bill in March.) The bill needs either 60 votes — meaning all 50 Democrats and 10 Republicans — or changes to the filibuster so that the bill could pass with 50 Democratic votes and Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
As Rolling Stone reported on Friday, Manchin’s op-ed announcing his opposition triggered a flurry of activity for democracy reform before the Senate votes on the For the People Act later this month, and at the same time that Republicans at the state level usher into law a slate of bills that tighten restrictions on early voting, voting by mail, and voting by young, black, and Hispanic people. Activists have planned marches in West Virginia and Washington, D.C., that target Manchin and urge him to vote for the For the People Act. With the halls of Congress, senators have asked Manchin to lay out his disagreements with the current version of the bill with an eye toward amending it to win his support.
The push to get at least all 50 Senate Democrats on board with the bill has divided into public and private pressure campaigns largely aimed at one person: Joe Manchin.
On Monday, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a cofounder of the Poor People’s Campaign, will lead a Moral Monday march in Charleston, the capital of West Virginia. The purpose will be to demand that Manchin support a version of the For the People as well as reforms to the filibuster, the Senate rule that as written allows a minority of senators to block most types of legislation if the majority can’t find at least 60 votes in support. “What McConnell & Manchin are doing is preventing a government that works for the people,” Barber tweeted. “It’s just wrong.”
Activists and faith leaders based in West Virginia have also taken aim at Manchin since he made public his opposition to the For the People Act as well as filibuster reform. Those activists point to the broad bipartisan support for the bill in West Virginia even among Republicans, according to polling commissioned by End Citizens United, a progressive group that supports the For the People Act and has spent millions of dollars to urge senators to vote for it.
“Senator Manchin has this idea of bipartisanship that is not formed in reality,” David Fryson, pastor-elect of The New First Baptist Church of Kanawha City, said in a recent press conference. Manchin, Fryson, added, “is wrong on the politics of it. There is broad bipartisan support. Even more important than the politics of it, Sen. Manchin is wrong on the morality of it.”
There’s also a behind-the-scenes effort in Washington to lobby Manchin to support the For the People Act, or at least some version of it. In his op-ed, Manchin said his opposition had everything to do with the absence of any Republican support and not any specific provisions in the bill itself. Two congressional aides who support the bill tell Rolling Stone that Sen. Klobuchar, who chairs the powerful Rules Committee, and other Democrats leading the S. 1 charge recently asked Manchin to pick out which parts of the bill he supported and which parts he didn’t. That way Democrats could make changes and possibly convince Manchin to support it. (A spokeswoman for Manchin did not respond to a request for comment.)
Schumer told reporters on Tuesday that he wouldn’t discuss his private conversations with Manchin. “Is it possible we might change a few things here and there?” Schumer said. “We’re going to do it. We’ve had discussions with Sen. Manchin and they’re continuing.” In the face of this uncertainty, Schumer stressed that the Senate would still “vote on voting-rights legislation, bold legislation, S. 1, in the last week in June.”
In her CNN appearance, Pelosi stressed the importance of passing a version of the For the People Act given the GOP-wide attempt to roll back voting rights in the states. “Republicans across the country are undermining our democracy, suppressing the vote,” she said. “We cannot let that stand. We have to make this fight for our democracy.”