Statement of Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause
The fight for voting rights does not end with an op-ed. The For the People Act (S. 1) has overwhelming bipartisan support nationwide and in West Virginia 79% of Senator Manchin’s constituents support the bill – including 76% of registered Republicans. Leader Schumer should advance the bill to a full Floor debate. If Senate Republicans try to filibuster such a motion to proceed to a full Floor debate, Senator Manchin should not join such a filibuster. He should vote to allow the debate to take place on the Floor and not just in the op-ed pages. The bill has already passed the House, had a Senate markup that adopted 5 Republican amendments, and is poised for Floor action.
Less than a week ago, President Biden announced that he would “fight like heck with every tool at my disposal” for the passage of the For the People Act, and he announced that Vice President Harris would help with these efforts. Now is the time to deploy those tools.
In states across the country GOP-controlled legislatures have rushed to pass the most sweeping restrictions on the freedom to vote since the end of Reconstruction. And by design, those restrictions disproportionately impact the freedom of Black and brown Americans to cast their ballots. It has become apparent that this is the Republican strategy for the 2022 elections – not to find a platform that attracts more voters but to pick and choose who votes and who doesn’t.
The For the People Act can and will stop this rush to deny the vote to millions of Americans. That is precisely why there are not 10 Republicans currently who will support the legislation. There were not even 10 Republican votes to establish a 9/11-style independent commission to investigate the insurrection January 6th at the United States Capitol that left 5 people dead and hundreds injured when a violent mob attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The overwhelming majority of Republicans in the Senate have chosen to put their party before their country and history will not look kindly on them.
Senator Manchin does not want to find himself on the wrong side of history because he put too much faith in his colleagues across the aisle. When he comes to the realization that Republicans in the Senate are not acting in good faith, he is going to have to make a decision about whether he is more committed to an unattainable quest for 10 Republican votes; or to the millions of Americans–particularly Black and brown Americans–who will be disenfranchised if he doesn’t support the For the People Act.
The 14th and 15th Amendments – granting citizenship and the right to vote to formerly enslaved people after the Civil War – were passed by Congress on party-line votes. We ask Senator Manchin—should Congress not have passed those?
Republican intransigence on voting rights is not an excuse for inaction and Senator Manchin must wake up to this fact. When it comes to voting rights, he said himself that “inaction is not an option.”