Joe Manchin Rejects For the People Act, Says Partisan Voting Legislation Will Further 'Destroy' Democracy

Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, plans to oppose the For the People Act, placing himself at odds with President Joe Biden and the majority of Democratic lawmakers who support the major voting rights legislation.

Manchin wrote an opinion article published by the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Sunday, explaining why he plans to vote against the For the People Act and continues to oppose ending the filibuster. Biden and Democratic leaders have called for the passage of the major voting rights bill as Republicans in state legislatures across the country have pushed forward election changes that Democrats and activists have characterized as voter suppression.

"The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen," Manchin wrote in his article. The senator noted that no Republicans have come out in support of the For the People Act.

"Some Democrats have again proposed eliminating the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass the For the People Act with only Democratic support. They've attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past," the moderate Democrat continued.

Joe Manchin
Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) voiced his opposition to the For the People Act in an article published on Sunday. In this photo, Manchin is interviewed after a news conference at the Marriott Hotel at Waterfront Place on June 3 in Morgantown, West Virginia. Michael Swensen/Getty Images

Manchin has long insisted that he will not support ending the legislative filibuster, which in its current form generally requires at least 60 votes in the Senate to pass major legislation. The Senate is currently evenly split between (50 to 50), and due to the filibuster, Democrats need unanimous support within their caucus as well as 10 Republican votes to get major bills to pass through the legislative chamber.

While Biden has also defended the filibuster, many Democratic lawmakers are calling for the Senate to remove the filibuster so legislation can move forward with a simple majority vote.

"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. Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster. For as long as I have the privilege of being your U.S. senator, I will fight to represent the people of West Virginia, to seek bipartisan compromise no matter how difficult and to develop the political bonds that end divisions and help unite the country we love," Manchin asserted in his article

The West Virginia senator consistently emphasizes what he sees as the importance of bipartisan compromise. While Republicans—and some Democrats—applaud Manchin for his efforts to work with the opposition, progressive Democrats have routinely criticized the senator's more conservative views and moderate approach to politics.

Without Manchin's support for the For the People Act and ending the filibuster, the legislation appears all but dead within the current Congress.

Manchin did express his desire to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which he noted has some level of bipartisan support.

"My Republican colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has joined me in urging Senate leadership to update and pass this bill through regular order. I continue to engage with my Republican and Democratic colleagues about the value of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and I am encouraged by the desire from both sides to transcend partisan politics and strengthen our democracy by protecting voting rights," he wrote.

While the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is more modest and less sweeping in its scope than the full For the People Act, it is supported by Democrats and activists as an important step forward. Republicans have argued that the For the People Act would federalize elections and remove power from state officials. Democrats have contended that the voting rights legislation is necessary to respond to GOP-backed efforts across the country to limit voting—particularly within minority communities.

Last week, Biden appeared to express frustration with Manchin and fellow moderate Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Both Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly voiced opposition to ending the filibuster and are often hold out votes within the Senate's Democratic Caucus when it comes to major bills.

"I hear all the folks on TV saying, 'Why doesn't Biden get this done?'" the president said last Tuesday.

"Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House, and a tie in the Senate," he said, "with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends."

Newsweek reached out to the White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's office for comment on Manchin's opposition to the For the People Act, but did not immediately receive responses.