Three weeks ago, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was confident that the Senate would approve a bipartisan plan to create an independent Jan. 6 commission. He assured reporters there was a “very, very good chance” the proposal would pass, adding that he believed there were at least “10 good, solid patriots” among Senate Republicans.
For the West Virginian, this was a test of his governing vision: Democrats and Republicans worked together, engaged in detailed negotiations, made concessions, and struck a deal. It was Manchin’s platonic ideal on how a bill becomes a law.
But it didn’t matter: Republicans killed the bipartisan bill anyway. Manchin’s model was put to the test and it failed. GOP senators effectively told him to come up with a new, more effective model.
Congress’ most conservative Democrat instead decided to put his vision to the test once more. With the Senate poised to take up a major proposal on voting rights, Manchin crafted a compromise blueprint of his own, featuring elements designed specifically to address both parties’ priorities.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believed all 50 Republicans would oppose Sen. Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) slimmed-down elections compromise, which focuses on expanding early voting and ending partisan gerrymandering in federal elections. And it’s not clear there’s a single Republican vote to even begin debate on the matter, potentially dooming Manchin’s proposals before they can even make it into the bill.
The rejection was amazingly swift: Manchin unveiled a four-page proposal on Wednesday afternoon, and by Thursday morning, Senate Republicans were tripping over themselves to condemn it.
McConnell, who rarely holds two Capitol Hill press conferences in the same week, organized a press event yesterday to slap away Manchin’s outstretched hand. The GOP leader stood alongside a phalanx of Senate Republicans who were eager to be seen denouncing the West Virginian’s compromise offer.
One of the principal GOP talking points yesterday — pushed by McConnell and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), among others — was that Georgia’s Stacey Abrams expressed support for Manchin’s conciliatory offer, which helped prove why it’s unacceptable. The political subtext was hardly subtle: the White conservative from West Virginia may not make for a convenient Republican villain, so GOP leaders decided to tie the offer to a progressive Black woman from Atlanta.
As things stand, the total number of GOP senators who’ve expressed even the slightest support for Manchin’s compromise is zero.
The senator genuinely seemed to believe that if he publicly rejected his own party’s proposal, worked on a compromise designed to meet the concerns of both parties, and engaged in good-faith outreach, Republican skeptics would be receptive and his entire approach to governance would be validated. His fellow Democrats may have unveiled a “partisan” proposal, but he’d show them — and everyone else — a better way.
In other words, Manchin deliberately created a test of his political model. It failed. Again. The contemporary Republican Party simply isn’t the party Manchin thinks it is, no matter how many times he offers them the opportunity to prove otherwise.
I’m reminded of a cliche: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
And so we’re once again left with the realization that GOP senators don’t want to pass a voting-rights bill and won’t consider compromise offers designed to make them happy. If Congress is going to do anything to protect the franchise against a brutal and ongoing assault, Senate Democrats will have to amend the institution’s filibuster rules and allow members to advance a solution by majority rule.
It’s an approach Manchin still refuses to consider.
Democratic leaders have scheduled a procedural vote on voting rights legislation for Tuesday, June 22. Watch this space.