Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-West Virginia) decision to vote against the For the People Act, a bill that would standardize voting and election rules across the country, received sharply negative responses, including from Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), who decried the senator’s actions as being akin to the obstructionist ways of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).
In an op-ed explaining his decision to vote against the bill — which would end partisan gerrymandering, restore portions of the Voting Rights Act, and seek to end the influence of dark money in politics by making political donations to political action committees public, among many other items — Manchin complained that the legislation had failed to garner any support among Republicans.
Because the bill, which is sometimes called H.R.1 or S.1, had zero Republican support, many have suggested that ending the filibuster would be necessary in order to get it passed, a notion that Manchin also rejected in his op-ed.
“I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act,” Manchin said of the bill. “Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”
Bowman, speaking on CNN’s “New Day” program on Monday morning, did not pull his punches in denouncing Manchin’s decision.
“Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell,” Bowman said. “Now Joe Manchin is doing everything in his power to stop democracy and stop our work for the people.”
Rather than create bridges of bipartisanship, Manchin is “doing the work of the Republican Party by being an obstructionist, just like they’ve been since the beginning of Biden’s presidency,” Bowman added.
"Joe Manchin has become the new Mitch McConnell," Rep. Jamaal Bowman says as the West Virginia senator tanks Democrats' hopes of going it alone on their sweeping agenda.
— New Day (@NewDay) June 7, 2021
Bowman further rejected the notion that the bill was too partisan, noting that polling has shown widespread support across all ideologies.
“H.R.1 has popularity across the country — in West Virginia, and across the country,” Bowman said. “Well over 65 percent of the American people support H.R.1, and well over 50 percent of Republicans support H.R.1.”
When shown a clip of Manchin saying he is hopeful that Republicans will support some aspects of election reform, Bowman rejected his sentiments.
“This is not about hope. It’s easy for us to say what we’re not going to vote for, what we’re not going to do, it’s much harder to build the coalition to meet the needs of our democracy,” Bowman explained. “And I wonder, is Sen. Manchin reaching out to his Republican colleagues, to move them in a direction that we need to go? Is he responding to the polling? Are they responding to the polling?”
Bowman also rejected Manchin’s adherence to the filibuster.
“Are we recognizing this moment in history as being essential to overall American history and really building the multiracial democracy that we are, and not upholding a corporate agenda or the Jim Crow white supremacist relic which is the filibuster?” he asked.
Bowman’s comments echo what a group of more than 100 scholars who specialize in democracy studies said earlier this month, writing in an open letter that calls for bipartisanship on the voting rights legislation should be ignored in order to preserve and enhance democratic rights for all Americans.
“It is always far better for major democracy reforms to be bipartisan, to give change the broadest possible legitimacy. However, in the current hyper-polarized political context such broad bipartisan support is sadly lacking,” those scholars wrote, adding that Congress should do “whatever is necessary — including suspending the filibuster — in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want.”