If we’re still wondering what might have been under discussion at the White House last night, this tidbit from Steve Clemons might provide a clue. Clemons spoke with Politico’s Ryan Lizza about his relationship with Joe Manchin for their “Deep Dive” podcast, and about what he’s heard this week regarding the filibuster and the voting bills. Clemons got surprised by Manchin’s position on the Freedom to Vote Act, having assumed that Manchin was on board.
As it turns out, Manchin is objecting to that bill and lots of its components, which has been kept quiet thus far as he negotiates. That quiet may end soon, for a number of reasons:
Steve: What I learned last night, what I learned recently is something I did not know — and it’s because I don’t know everything about Joe Manchin, I don’t know everything about [what’s] going on — is that the bill that the Freedom to Vote Act, which a lot of people had in shorthand thought was sort of Joe Manchin, Stacey Abrams… Joe Manchin believes it is not, that it’s not. They didn’t write the bill. It didn’t have the language. It still has a lot of stuff in it he doesn’t like and that the Rules Committee under Senator Klobuchar have put together something that is no longer his bill. I did not know that.
Ryan: Huh. This is the Freedom to Vote Act that…
Steve: …that we thought was him. His name is not on it. He’s not a sponsor. So I think the big issue is that progressives like Randi Weingarten and others — I don’t want to put words in her mouth — see that they believe democracy is on the line. That the Republicans, when they come back, which they likely are to do in the next election in the House, will do, they believe, anything to win it, to keep winning or whatever. So this moment is really important to get the infrastructure right so that the game can remain fair and that people can continue to have the right to vote and are going to do this. They look at this as a really vital moment and that what had to happen, even if Joe Manchin was not going to agree to a carve out on the filibuster, is that they had to get this legislation on the floor to have it publicly debated and vetted so that all sides could be seen about where they were trying to constrain or allow by way of a high quality.
In my book, it gives Joe Manchin an opportunity to critique the Freedom to Vote Act. I don’t know whether he will or not. This is all real time happening right now, and so I don’t know what he will do on it. But I was surprised to learn that after all of the effort in all of the applause of what he and Stacey Abrams had done together, that that so-called bill is not the bill that’s on the floor. So that was new to me. That’s a big, big deal because it gives Manchin a way out of supporting this if he doesn’t want to support it, right? So I think there’s a dimension there that I think hasn’t been reported.
Chuck Schumer has planned for n upcoming Senate debate on the voting bills, now wrapped up in one package by the House for the purpose of evading a cloture vote to open debate. The only reason to do that in the face of inevitable defeat on the cloture vote to close debate is to use it as a stick to beat Republicans for opposing “civil rights.” If Manchin instead gets up and starts picking apart the bills for their extremist policies and incumbent-protection provisions, it will instead make Schumer and Biden look like the extremists, and Schumer’s stunt will instead blow up in their faces.
Does Schumer want to risk that? And is that what Manchin might have mentioned to Biden in their meeting last night?
Another reason Manchin could deliver some embarrassing criticism is because an opportunity for real reform is getting crowded out by Schumer’s brute partisanship, Clemons notes:
I think the other dimension out there that again — not putting Senator Manchin in there, but he’s been public about it — but his frustration is, he said the electoral certification, the Electoral College certification process needs to be reformed. Even Mitch McConnell has said that and that others say that you can’t allow a House member and a Senate member to derail millions of votes and invalidate or paralyze those votes from their states. He is frustrated that we’re not elevating and bringing forward those non-controversial or less controversial opportunities for bipartisan securing of this sacred vote process so that we do not have a repeat of January 6 ever again. He’s frustrated with the leadership that isn’t allowing those moments to happen and putting those things first and then bringing it along.
Not only is this the most responsive effort to the insanity of January 6, it’s also fully within Congress’ authority — something that can’t be said of the new vehicle for SB1. Revising the Electoral Count Act to require a majority to contest a state’s certified results will eliminate all but the most urgent challenges and will furthermore preclude the idiotic machinations that were predicated on the idea that the Vice President and/or Congress “certifies” state results. Rather than fix the actual problem, Schumer’s using the crisis to push through long-standing progressive agenda items on federalizing elections of the sort that will only put Congress even more in the center of election controversies.
On top of that, Politico reports separately, Manchin’s none too happy with Biden’s demagoguery this week, a point Biden belatedly recognized:
Despite Biden’s visit and next week’s floor showdown, Manchin and Sinema are only digging in.
After the caucus meeting, Manchin declared in a new statement that “I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” He cited Byrd’s 2010 Senate Rules Committee testimony, in which Byrd emphasized the need to protect the filibuster but also decried its excessive use. His stiff-arm was a major blow to Biden and Schumer’s effort to change rules along party lines. …
During his meeting with Democrats, Biden also sought to clarify a Wednesday attempt to speak with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the Kentucky Republican slammed the president for an Atlanta speech that invoked the civil rights movement in pushing for the voting reform bill.
Biden told the senators that he doesn’t think McConnell is comparable to civil rights-era segregationists and asked Republicans which team they want to be on when it comes to voting rights.
Well, could’ve fooled us. Why did Biden bring up Jefferson Davis and Bull Conner, then? And both Manchin and Sinema know that Biden’s allegation was aimed at themselves as well as McConnell, no matter how much Biden backtracks now.
Stay tuned for Manchin’s reaction in the upcoming Senate debate … if Schumer decides to go ahead and have one. Schumer and Biden have chosen poorly at every turn, despite Manchin’s attempts to get them to wake up, so get the popcorn prepared just in case.