Manchin Presents Voting Rights and Ethics Wishlist

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Politics|Manchin presents his wish list for a voting rights and ethics bill.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/16/us/politics/manchin-voting-rights.html

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia during an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday.
Credit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Jonathan Weisman

  • June 16, 2021

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, showing some flexibility on major voting rights legislation, indicated on Wednesday that he opposed the blanket prohibition on all voter identification laws in the Senate Democrats’ current version and would not support public financing of elections.

But he expressed support for statutory expansions of early and mail-in voting that would turn back dozens of voting restriction laws that have passed or are nearing passage in Republican legislatures in key states like Georgia, Florida and Texas.

He also suggested privately this week that he was working to alleviate pressure to end the legislative filibuster — a move that he has publicly promised to oppose — even though not even his version of a voting rights measure could overcome a Republican blockade.

For weeks, fellow Democrats have complained that Mr. Manchin would not say precisely what he needed — or needed to jettison — to get his signature as the 50th co-sponsor of the voting legislation, also known as S1. Instead, he simply said that he wanted a Republican to back the bill, thus making it bipartisan.

On Wednesday, he responded to that criticism with an exhaustive list of provisions for a voting rights, ethics and campaign finance bill that he could support. For Democrats, there was much to like. Mr. Manchin said he wanted Election Day to be a public holiday. He wants at least 15 consecutive days of early voting, including two weekends; a ban on partisan gerrymandering and the use of computer models to tailor House districts to a candidate’s political party; and a requirement that states send mail-in absentee ballots to eligible voters if they are unable to vote in person, among several other provisions to expand ballot access.

His provision would scale back the For the People Act’s mandated “no excuse” absentee ballot access, but remains broad.

On ethics, he would maintain many of S1’s efforts to address the abuses of President Donald J. Trump, including the mandatory release of presidential and vice-presidential tax returns, and the divestiture of all presidential business and financial interests within 30 days of taking office.

His campaign finance changes are not as far-reaching as those in the Democratic bill, but he would mandate disclosure of donors to “dark money” political committees and stronger rules to expose who is paying for social media advertising.

Together, Mr. Manchin’s proposals would make a significant bill, perhaps the biggest expansion of voting rights since passage of the Voting Rights Act.

“A good voting bill has to be accessible. It has to be fair and it has to be secure,” the senator told reporters on Wednesday.

But as long as 10 Republicans would be needed to break a filibuster, the Manchin version would have no chance of passage.

In a Zoom call reported by The Intercept, Mr. Manchin told the affluent financial supporters of the centrist group No Labels that he still hoped to preserve the filibuster, but that he needed some Republicans to help him prove that bipartisanship could still survive the toxic atmosphere in Congress.

Focusing on the filibuster of a bill to create a bipartisan commission to examine the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, he told the group he needed help persuading three more Senate Republicans to join Democrats to allow it to move forward. He appeared to suggest that some of the business people on the call dangle job opportunities before Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, who is retiring, to entice him to change his position.

“Roy Blunt is a great, just a good friend of mine, a great guy,” Mr. Manchin was heard saying. “Roy is retiring. If some of you all who might be working with Roy in his next life could tell him, ‘That’d be nice and it’d help our country,’ that would be very good to get him to change his vote. And we’re going to have another vote on this thing. That’ll give me one more shot at it.”

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