September 10, 2021

When the Senate returns to business on September 14, voting rights are going to be on the table.

In the midst of the efforts of Republican-dominated states to suppress voting, Joe Manchin (D-WV), who stood alone in his party against the sweeping For the People Act, has continued to lead a group of senators trying to craft a voting rights bill that will gain the support of at least ten Republicans so it can pass without changing the rules of the filibuster. 

The group includes Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Angus King (I-ME). 

After rejecting the For the People Act, Manchin released a list of the voting items he could support. That list is apparently the basis for the new bill.

Once it is written, Manchin will shop it around to Republicans in order to find the ten votes needed to get anything through the Senate (since Senate rules currently require 60 votes to break a filibuster, Democrats in the evenly divided chamber need support from at least 10 Republicans to pass the bill). Manchin maintains he can find those votes, although many are skeptical and there has so far been no sign that today’s Republicans will rally to a voting rights bill.

If Manchin cannot find the ten votes he needs to make the measure filibuster-proof, the central question is whether he will agree to a carve-out for the filibuster like the one the Senate now has for high-level judicial appointments. 

If so, the federal government will enforce the right of individual citizens to vote, overriding state laws restricting that vote. If not, the restrictive state measures put in place by Republican-dominated legislatures will stand, and the nation seems likely to become a one-party state.

This measure is tied up with the huge infrastructure package currently before Congress: the infrastructure bill creates room to negotiate with those who might need some incentive to vote for a voting rights bill. The measure also offers members a chance to vote for it and go down in history as saving American democracy… or as destroying American democracy by voting no.

And one other piece of news before I fall into bed: Today another civilian flight left Kabul, Afghanistan, carrying 158 passengers, including 21 Americans.