Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he hasn’t decided whether to back the $3.5 trillion price tag of a planned Democratic-only spending package, a major priority of President Joe Biden’s.
The key Democratic moderate said in a Friday interview that several factors would weigh into his decision, among them the increasing cost of goods and the nation’s growing debt pile. The price of gasoline, used cars, trucks, and other services has shot up as the economy started reopening and run into various crimps in supply chains.
“I’m very much concerned about inflation in our country,” Manchin told Insider, stressing how much he’s been focused on infrastructure spending and its potential costs. “I’m concerned about the debt that we’re carrying and our ability to compete on a global basis … we have to be fiscally responsible.”
On Wednesday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona came out against the proposed price tag of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, although she committed to advancing what’s known as a budget resolution. Adopting that would pave the way for Democrats to start drafting the party-line bill, which can clear the Senate with a simple 51-vote majority instead of the 60 required for most legislation in the modern Senate to avert the filibuster.
Every Senate Democrat must stick together for the package to succeed, and Manchin is onboard for now. He told CNN on Thursday he would vote for the resolution, allowing Democrats to approve a social spending package on their own – possibly in September. He told CNN that he was “keeping an open mind” on the $3.5 trillion price tag.
The West Virginia Democrat told Insider he’s in constant communication with Sinema about her views. “We speak all the time,” Manchin said.
‘I’m not going to put any figures on anything’
Manchin touted the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, which will pour federal spending into roads, highways, bridges, broadband, and water. He was one of five Democratic negotiators who hashed out the plan with five Senate Republicans over the span of roughly a month. The plan has the full backing of Biden and top Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Its passage would set the stage for Senate Democrats to jumpstart the reconciliation process before they leave for the monthlong August recess. Manchin said his support will hinge on the plan’s contents, and didn’t rule out backing its substantial cost. Democrats want to stuff it with measures like free community college, affordable childcare, and national paid leave.
“We have a good piece of legislation that has a lot of good work,” he said. “I think out of respect for all my colleagues who’ve been working on the other budget resolution, we should give that a look and be able work on it in a really productive way.”
He added that he’s “not going to put any figures on anything” until he’s had a chance to review the full bill.
Still, Manchin suggested that his time has been overwhelmingly consumed by negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure deal, and said he hasn’t decided whether to back renewing a federal eviction ban that ends in a day. Democrats are rushing to pass a bill to renew it after Biden urged a last-minute extension.
“I’ve been wrapped up in this so much, I haven’t even seen” it, he told Insider about his work on infrastructure and his potential support for an eviction moratorium.
“We’re gonna take a very serious look at it,” he said.
America’s neglected social safety net could be getting its largest patch in a generation on Thursday, when the US begins a year-long experiment providing a guaranteed income for families with children. Its success will determine whether it becomes a permanent fixture.
The Internal Revenue Service is poised to send the first batch of monthly child tax credit payments stemming from President Joe Biden’s stimulus law, which was approved in March over united Republican opposition. For six months, families can get a $300 monthly benefit per child age 5 and under, amounting to $3,600 this year. The measure provides $250 each month per kid age 6 and 17, totaling $3,000. Half of the benefit will come as a tax refund.
If all goes to plan, the federal government will deposit cash directly into the bank accounts of 36.2 million families, according to projections from administration officials shared with reporters on Wednesday evening. That represents the bulk of the 39 million families the IRS has identified as being eligible for the child allowance.
Experts say the one-year child tax credit payments could shift public attitudes on cash benefits given its wide reach and mark a big step forward in slashing child poverty – some estimate it could be cut by up to half.
“It’s hard to understate the significance of this expansion for child poverty in America,” Samuel Hammond, a welfare policy expert at the center-right Niskanen Center, told Insider. “Most countries have some form of child or family allowance – and the US has been an outlier in excluding the lowest income households from our version of a child benefit,” he said, adding “once you start on this path, it’s hard to turn back.”
Some Democrats are already drawing comparisons between the program and the birth of Social Security in 1935, a milestone that set up a critical source of income for retired and disabled Americans.
“It’s the most transformative policy coming out of Washington since the days of FDR,” Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey recently told The New York Times.
‘Some bumps in the road’
Democratic lawmakers and Congressional aides have labored behind the scenes to ensure a smooth rollout of the payments. The child tax credit was revamped to include low-income families not required to file taxes, a group previously shut out from tapping into the benefit.
There were some signs of problems early on. Some experts and community groups raised concern that an IRS portal to sign up the poorest families was too complex and inaccessible for people who lacked desktop computers.
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, an architect of the measure, said on Monday the IRS has given the child tax credit “100% of their attention” and said he’s regularly communicated with the agency.
Still, he cautioned there could still be some snags. The pandemic has added to the IRS’s responsibilities over the past year and strained its depleted staff. It has gone from being a tax-collecting agency to a benefit distributor on par with the Social Security Administration.
“I’m sure there will be some bumps in the road as there always are when rolling out something new like this,” he told reporters. “But it’s important as bumps arise to iron them out.”
Some of those potential problems, Bennet told Insider, include “people not getting the benefit they were supposed to receive and accounting issues that might arise. I hope they won’t be systemic issues, I don’t think they will be.”
The IRS has struggled sorting through a massive backlog of tax returns in recent months, delaying tax refunds in at least some cases. Hammond said it was unclear whether distributing monthly child benefits via the IRS is “sustainable in the long run.”
“We’ve increasingly asked the IRS to do an awful lot of social policy beyond taxing and collecting revenues, and the IRS is just not equipped to be a benefits administrator,” he said.
The future of Biden’s child allowance
The bulked-up child tax credit is a rare measure that enjoys deep support among both House and Senate Democrats. Bennet, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Reps. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Suzan DelBene of Washington, are among the lawmakers spearheading efforts to make it permanent.
Biden proposed in his spending plans to extend the bulked-up benefit until 2025, the same year that Trump-era tax cuts for individuals end. It’s possible Republicans could trade support to renew the pair of benefits, given the GOP is generally opposed to cash aid as a standalone measure.
“I think we should embrace allowing people to keep more of their own money, if we’re applying it towards their payroll tax,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida told Insider last month. Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah led efforts to double the size of the child tax credit in the 2017 Republican tax law. The pair favor boosting the benefit amount for workers.
On Wednesday, Rubio released a statement tearing into the child allowance. “The way President Biden tells it, the handout is part of his administration’s ‘pro-family’ plan,” he said. In reality, he has transformed the pro-worker, pro-family Child Tax Credit into an anti-work welfare check.”
Senate Democrats are kicking off a flurry of negotiations to finalize what measures will ultimately be included in a $3.5 trillion budget deal that would mostly be paid for with tax increases. They’ll advance it in a pathway known as reconciliation, which allows them to approve certain bills with a simple majority instead of a filibuster-proof 60 votes. Every Democrat must stick together for the budget package to clear the Senate.
Brown, the Banking Committee chairman, said talks were in their early stages so no child allowance expiration date was set. “Not clear what year yet, but it’s going to be a popular program like Social Security,” he told Insider on Wednesday. “Republicans will not only be afraid to take it away, they’ll start taking credit for it.”
He also suggested its hefty price tag could keep a permanent extension out: “I think its so costly it may not [be included], but I’m still fighting for permanence,” he said.
Brown also rejected the notion of changing the income thresholds. “I think that’s pretty locked in. We’ve all been talking about how important that is, 90% of the public getting this is really consequential and key to its popularity,” he told Insider.
Some Democratic moderates may balk at renewing the child tax credit in its current state. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a swing vote, told Insider he was open to a permanent extension last month. Others are undecided on the program’s fate.
“I consider it not an easy issue,” Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said in an interview. “It is a major expansion of what amounts to an entitlement program. I certainly supported it as part of the pandemic relief package. But supporting it on a permanent basis is something that I have to have more data on and understand how it’ll be paid for.”
Sen. Joe Manchin is ruling out borrowing money to finance a party-line infrastructure package as Senate Democrats deliberate the range of tax increases that would be needed to pay for President Joe Biden’s agenda.
‘I think everything should be paid for now,” he told reporters. “I think we’ve put enough free money out.”
Manchin later told reporters on Tuesday he would only back an infrastructure package that was fully financed by tax revenue, adding, “How much debt can y’all handle?” He wants to do this with tax increases, though he favors less aggressive measures than Biden put forward such as a smaller corporate tax bump.
“I think we’ve incurred over 28 and a half trillion dollars of debt and I’d like to start paying for it,” he told reporters, referring to the national debt that the US government has accumulated over several decades.
Senate Democrats are still negotiating the final price tag of an infrastructure plan that only requires a simple majority vote, allowing Democrats to skirt Republicans under a legislative pathway known as reconciliation. But they need every Democratic senator to back a party-line package given the 50-50 Senate and their tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.
On reconciliation, Democrats are undertaking a delicate balancing act to find an amount that satisfies progressives who want to spend big and moderates like Manchin who want to fully finance it with tax increases.
“We’re trying to move as quickly as we can,” Sen. Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee and a key player in the talks, told Insider. Talks that began last month could stretch into late July, with passage of a bill sometime in the fall.
The national debt has grown at least $6 trillion over the past year in the wake of the federal government’s response to the pandemic, since multiple federal rescue packages were approved. Still, many economists and the Federal Reserve say that now is the time for Congress to take advantage of low interest rates – which make it cheaper to borrow – and repair the economy.
Sen. Bernie Sanders said Monday that he was seeking a package that was over $3.5 trillion. He argues the package presents Democrats with an opportunity to overhaul the economy in a scale unseen since the 1930s.
“Childcare, clean energy, family care, we know what we need,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told reporters. “We’ve got to get to a topline number that will support that.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer alluded to the potential potholes that lie ahead on Tuesday.”It is not going to be easy, but it is certainly going to be worth it,” he said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday said he’s pushing Democrat-only infrastructure package larger than $3.5 trillion, as Senate Democrats kicked off a frenzied legislative period.
“I’m going to fight to make that proposal as robust as it can be,” Sanders told reporters outside the White House after an afternoon meeting with President Joe Biden. He’s pushed for $6 trillion in new spending and shot down a $3.5 trillion price tag that has been floated.
The price tag was pitched by Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, according to two people familiar with the talks. Both were granted anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak about the negotiations.
Sanders also said the legislation was a way to show average Americans that the government was capable of improving their lives.
“We want to see a reconciliation bill which shows the working families of this country that government can and must work for them,” Sanders said, referring to the legislative pathway Democrats will use to approve a bill with only a simple majority, skirting Republicans.
He added that the package Democrats are drafting could be among the most transformative since the New Deal era.
“What we are trying to do is transformative,” he said. ‘The legislation that the president and I are supporting will go further to improve the lives of working people than any legislation since the 1930s.”
It comes as Sanders starts deploying a substantial amount of influence as chair of the Senate Budget Committee over the reconciliation process. The Vermont senator has a big role shaping the size and scope of Biden’s tax-and-spending plans, and his committee is tasked with writing instructions on federal spending and taxes to other Congressional committees.
Over the weekend, Sanders told The New York Times he’s pressing for a party-line infrastructure package topping $3 trillion that includes housing, climate, childcare, and paid leave among other new initiatives. That could set up a clash with moderate Senate Democrats like Warner and Joe Manchin of West Virginia who favor a slimmer party-line bill. Manchin has expressed support in the past for a $2 trillion party-line bill that’s fully paid for.
Given talks appear to be in their early stages, several Senate Democrats said they weren’t ready to back Sanders’ large price tag. They are racing to kick off the reconciliation process within the month, but a final bill wouldn’t be passed until sometime in the fall.
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, deflected when asked if he could support a package of that size. The panel is in charge of drafting the tax components that generate revenue for eventual infrastructure legislation.
“My colleagues and I have been talking all through the break,” Wyden told Insider, referring to the two-week July 4 recess. “We’re going to do some more talking.”
Other Democrats also weren’t ready to throw their support behind the hefty price tag pitched by Sanders.
“Depends on what it’s spent for and how it’s paid for,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, a member of the bipartisan group that struck a $1 trillion bipartisan deal with Senate Republicans, told Insider.
Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a key Biden ally, demurred as well. “I’m very focused on getting to text on the infrastructure bill,’ he said. “What matters more than the price tag to me is the contents and the details.”
“To me, it’s much more important to try to determine what’s in the package than to start at a topline and work backwards,” Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said in an interview. “I’d rather say these are the things the country needs and that’s the way I’m going to approach it.”
Democrats hold a 50-50 Senate that relies on a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. Every Senate Democrat must be onboard the party-line bill or else the effort collapses.
Sen. Bernie Sanders indicated that he would oppose a Democrat-only spending bill if its price tag didn’t top $3 trillion, brushing anything lower as too meager. It may set the stage for a confrontation between Sanders and moderate Democrats looking to restrain the size of a follow-up package.
In an interview with New York Times opinion columnist Maureen Dowd published Saturday, the Vermont senator ruled out backing a party-line infrastructure plan that amounted to either $2 trillion or $3 trillion.
“That’s much too low,” he told Dowd. He also pulled out a list of his priorities for a reconciliation package.
They appeared to include broadband, climate, childcare, universal pre-K, paid family and medical leave, Medicare expansion and housing among others.
“Does anyone deny that our child care system, for example, is a disaster?” Sanders told Dowd. “Does anyone deny that pre-K, similarly, is totally inadequate? Does anyone deny that there’s something absurd that our young people can’t afford to go to college or are leaving school deeply in debt? Does anybody deny that our physical infrastructure is collapsing?”
Sanders’s remarks could potentially set up a showdown with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as Democrats move ahead with a reconciliation spending package. Reconciliation is a legislative tactic Democrats are poised to use and circumvent Republicans because only a simple majority is needed for certain bills.
The party holds a narrow majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate that relies on a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. Every Senate Democrat must be onboard as a result or else the package fails.
Manchin has made clear he favors a party-line package that’s fully paid for with tax increases and doesn’t grow the national debt. He previously suggested a $2 trillion price tag.
“I’ve agreed that can be done. I just haven’t agreed on the amount,” he told MSNBC late last month. “I haven’t seen everything that everybody is wanting to put into the bill.”
As chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders wields enormous influence over reconciliation since the panel helps set overall spending levels. Senate Democrats are weighing up to $6 trillion in spending aimed at overhauling the economy with new initiatives in childcare, higher education, monthly cash payments to families, and clean energy programs.
Manchin along with a few other Senate Democrats like Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia have already balked at supporting $6 trillion in spending, making cuts likely.
President Joe Biden has already struck a $1 trillion infrastructure agreement with a centrist group of lawmakers concentrated on roads, bridges, and highways. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dug in on not passing the plan until the Senate also approves a separate reconciliation package containing measures unlikely to draw Republican support.
It’s unclear whether it will ultimately pass, given Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t thrown his support behind it yet. For now, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Democrats to gear up for potentially long days ahead to kick off the reconciliation process before the August recess next month.
“Please be advised that time is of the essence and we have a lot of work to do,” Schumer wrote Friday in a letter to Senate Democrats. “Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period.”
Several Republican lawmakers were secretly filmed imploring conservative activists to flood a pair of centrist Democrats with messages of gratitude for holding firm on the filibuster, a 60-vote threshold that most bills need to clear the Senate.
It’s the latest video posted by Democratic activist Lauren Windsor, only days after posting another one showing a GOP congressman calling for “18 months of chaos” to jam Democrats. Both sets of remarks were made at a June 29 Patriot Voices event attended by a large group of conservatives.
In the newest video, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona said Democrats were “pushing as hard as they can” to enact President Joe Biden’s agenda.
“Fortunately for us, the filibuster’s still in effect in the Senate. Without that we would be dead meat and this thing would be done,” he said in the video. “Then we’d be having a little more frantic discussion than we’d be having today.”
He went on: “But thank goodness for Sinema and Joe Manchin,” referring to Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom have resisted a mounting chorus of Democratic calls to abolish the filibuster.
Then Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida urged activists in attendance to call the pair of centrist Democrats and thank them for refusing to blow up the filibuster.
“All of you in this room, people at home on Zoom, let me tell you right now, if you want to do one thing to keep the republic afloat, call Joe Manchin’s office, call Kyrsten Sinema’s office,” he said.
Donald’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Biggs’s office declined to comment on the record.
The filibuster has emerged as a barrier to a substantial chunk of Biden’s agenda on the economy, voting rights, policing reform, and immigration. Given Democrats’ 50-50 majority that relies on a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, many in the party are calling to get rid of it so they can pass legislation without Republicans.
But Manchin and Sinema have dug in on preserving it. “There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Manchin wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in April.
Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator and 2016 GOP primary candidate, also attended the event. He acknowledged the difficulty Republicans face rolling back social programs once they’re in place – a possible reference to their failed attempt to scrap the Affordable Care Act under President Donald Trump in 2017, and others proposing cuts to safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security.
“It’s a lot easier to pass giveaways than to take them away. And everybody thinks, ‘Oh, well you know, we’ll just take them away,'” he said in the video. “No we won’t! No we won’t.”
On Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed Republicans for walking back on a bipartisan infrastructure deal just a day after President Joe Biden said “we have a deal.”
On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez argued the senators had wasted time and negotiated “in bad faith.”
“Wow, who could have possibly predicted that Senate Republicans were wasting months of a Dem majority’s precious time negotiating in bad faith just to suddenly renege on a bipartisan agreement w/ new, mercurial demands after doing exactly the same w the Jan 6th commission,” the New York lawmaker wrote in a tweet.
The criticism came in response to news that one GOP senator was wavering in his support of the $1 trillion infrastructure agreement he had been part of negotiation with the White House, on the grounds that Biden was tying it to Democrats’ passage of another, larger spending package.
“It’s time to move forward, rebuild infrastructure and drawdown carbon, lower the age of Medicare and extend it to cover vision & dental, expand childcare and housing accessibility, and serve the American people,” Ocasio-Cortez continued in another tweet. “That is bipartisan too, with 2 party support among the electorate.”
“The diversity of this ‘bipartisan coalition’ pretty perfectly conveys which communities get centered and which get left behind when leaders prioritize bipartisan dealmaking over inclusive lawmaking (which prioritizes delivering the most impact possible for the most people),” the New York Democrat tweeted alongside a photo of the group of lawmakers with Biden on Thursday.
The bipartisan proposal includes funding for traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges as well as clean water, nationwide broadband, and improved public transit. It also aims to establish a nationwide network of 500,000 electric-vehicle charging stations.
The White House plans to offset the measure’s cost with repurposed unemployment-insurance funds, stricter IRS enforcement, and the purchase of unused toll credits. The corporate tax hike initially sought by the Biden administration wasn’t included in that deal.
Republicans beyond Moran seem mortified that Biden could pass a bipartisan deal while simultaneously passing a party-line bill that covers the rest of his proposals on infrastructure.
“It seems like the momentum in the Republican caucus is to abandon this deal,” Brian Riedl, a former Republican Senate aide who is now a budget expert at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, told Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig. “The fact they feel lied to and misled by the president gives them a pretty clear justification for pulling out.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina went further on Friday, telling Politico that “most Republicans could not have known” that Biden would tie the two bills together. “There’s no way. You look like a f—ing idiot now.”
President Joe Biden has thrown his support behind a $1 trillion infrastructure deal negotiated by a Senate group of Republican and Democrats, a major step towards his goal of working with the GOP despite their opposition to the majority of his agenda.
“We have a deal,” Biden said Thursday after an Oval Office meeting with bipartisan group of 10 senators. “We made serious compromises on both ends.”
The Senate faction came out strongly in favor of the plan. “It was essential to show the Senate can function, that we can work in a bipartisan way,” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said. Other negotiators championed the package as well.
The framework has not been made public, but it’s expected to encompass physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges. Around $550 billion of it would constitute new spending beyond existing programs. That represents around a quarter of Biden’s initial $2.3 trillion plan unveiled in late March.
The bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers is evenly divided between the parties. GOP senators include Sens. Romney; Rob Portman of Ohio; Cassidy of Louisiana; Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
The Democratic half is made up of Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Jon Tester of Montana; Mark Warner of Virginia; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
But Democrats are poised to approve a follow-up economic package sometime in the late summer or early fall.
“There ain’t no infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference, referring to a larger package that would pass along party lines, likely without any GOP votes.
Many Democrats, particularly progressives, are pressing for quick passage of a separate economic package focused on Biden’s spending initiatives. He’s introduced a plan for tuition-free community college and affordable childcare, along with an extension of monthly cash payments for parents.
“We know what we need to get done – roads, bridges, childcare, clean energy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren told reporters. “That’s one package altogether.”
Asked by Insider about her preferred timeline for approving a party-line reconciliation plan, she emphasized “soon” and said July.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is poised to play a critical role in President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.
The influential Democratic centrist nearly derailed passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package when he pressed for a last-minute cut to federal unemployment benefits. It sent Democrats scrambling to secure his support for 12 hours – they eventually agreed to a reduction.
With Democrats essentially needing to pass major legislation via reconciliation – which requires all 50 members of the parties to vote in favor – Manchin remains the swing vote on infrastructure.
Manchin now holds major sway in ongoing bipartisan infrastructure negotiations. He’s pushing both parties to strike a deal over the objection of fellow Democrats and progressives who view the talks as alternately a waste of time or something that could produce a significantly watered-down bill.
On Tuesday, Manchin opened the door to a Democrat-only package. He’s largely held back from offering policy specifics, but here’s an overview of what Manchin seeks from a new economic spending bill:
On Tuesday, Manchin offered some of his clearest rationale yet behind why he wants to raise corporate taxes in an interview with NBC News:
“Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on not changing anything, and I thought the 2017 tax bill was a very unfair bill, and weighted to a side that basically did not benefit the average American. So I voted against it. I think there are some adjustments that need to be made.”
Manchin chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which The Hill first reported is slated to mark up a 423-page legislative draft aimed at strengthening the nation’s energy infrastructure on Thursday. It contains provisions to boost electric grid resiliency as well as the energy efficiency of housing and commercial buildings.
It remains unclear how much of Biden’s education, healthcare, and childcare initiatives Manchin will ultimately embrace. His office declined to comment earlier this month on whether the West Virginia senator supported the permanent expansion of the child tax credit.
But the Democrats’ pivotal swing vote looks like he may be ready to make a deal.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Sunday blasted the Democrats’ sweeping voting-rights bill, saying that even a compromise hashed out by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia would not pass muster.
The “For the People Act,” also known as H.R.1 or S.1., would end partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, and establish national standards for voter registration, among other measures.
During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham called the legislation “a bad idea” and dismissed Manchin’s efforts to attract Republican support by narrowing some of the provisions in the bill.
“In my view, S.R. 1 is the biggest power grab in the history of the country,” he said. “It mandates ballot harvesting, no voter ID. It does away with the states being able to redistrict when you have population shifts. It’s just a bad idea, and it’s a problem that most Republicans are not going to sign – they’re trying to fix a problem most Republicans have a different view of.”
“Congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials,” Manchin wrote last week.
Graham continued to give a thumbs down on Manchin’s proposal, despite his positive working relationship with the Democratic senator.
“Well, one, I like Joe Manchin a lot, but we had the largest turnout in the history of the United States, and states are in charge of voting in America, so I don’t like the idea of taking the power to redistrict away from the state legislators,” he said.
He added: “You’re having people move from blue states to red states. Under this proposal, you’d have some kind of commission redraw the new districts, and I don’t like that. I want states where people are moving to have control over how to allocate new congressional seats.”
While several Democratic-leaning states including Illinois and Pennsylvania are set to lose congressional districts due to population shifts, some Republican-dominated states are losing seats, as well. Ohio and West Virginia, which have trended “red” in recent election cycles, are each losing a congressional district.
Last week, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky also panned the compromise proposal.
“I would make this observation about the revised version. … All Republicans, I think, will oppose that as well if that were to be what surfaced on the floor,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled a Tuesday vote that would start debate on the bill, despite the likelihood of a GOP-led filibuster.
The voting-rights bill would have to clear the 60-vote threshold to withstand a legislative filibuster and proceed to a vote where it could pass with a simple majority.
“Our goal remains crystal clear: Protect the right to vote, strengthen our democracy, and put a stop to the tide of voter suppression flooding across our country,” the New York Democrat said last week.