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Manchin-McConnell meet amid new voting rights push

The Hill logo The Hill 9/14/2021 Jordain Carney
a person wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) leaves the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. © Greg Nash Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) leaves the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon on Tuesday, September 14, 2021.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) met on Tuesday over a new voting and election bill being pushed by Democrats.

Manchin, who helped negotiate the bill, has been deputized by his caucus to try to find the 10 GOP senators who would support the bill and break a 60-vote legislative filibuster, with the Senate expected to try to start debate as soon as next week.

"I work with everybody. I want to find out where they are at, what we can do," Manchin told reporters after the meeting, confirming that he was pitching McConnell on the voting rights bill.

"I always think there's a pathway forward. You know me. ... I'm optimistic. I'm here to work with everybody," Manchin added.

Manchin and a group of Democrats unveiled new voting rights legislation earlier Tuesday as Democrats make a renewed effort to try to get a bill to President Biden's desk.

But to get a bill through the Senate, Democrats would need either the support of 10 GOP senators or total unity from all 50 Democrats to nix the legislative filibuster or create a carve-out from the hurdle for voting rights legislation.

Even as Manchin is ramping up his outreach to Republicans, McConnell and other GOP leaders are signaling that they can't support the new Democratic bill.

"We will not be letting Washington Democrats abuse their razor-thin majorities in both chambers to overrule state and local governments and appoint themselves a national Board of Elections on steroids," McConnell said in a statement.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell's No. 2, added that he didn't expect Republicans would support the bill as currently drafted.

"If Manchin was trying to pitch it to Mitch, and I know he's been trying to talk to him about it for a while, I think to try and find something that would, you know, have a path toward some bipartisan support," Thune said.

"But I can't, like I said, imagine what that is as long as it entails the broader strategy behind this, which is to, you know, basically federalize and nationalize our elections," Thune added.

But Manchin told reporters that he thought the meeting was worthwhile, saying he wants to "find out if there's any position that he can take, you know, for voting rights."

"We need to do something if we can, find a pathway forward," Manchin said. "I just wanted to say, 'We've got a new bill out. Can we get any help?'"

Spokespeople for McConnell didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the meeting.

Senate Republicans previously blocked the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that would overhaul federal elections, from coming up for debate earlier this year.

The new bill from Democrats builds on a framework initially circulated by Manchin earlier this summer and includes automatic voter registration, making Election Day a holiday, same-day voter registration, national standards for voter ID, new requirements for reporting foreign contact with campaigns and new disclosure requirements for online campaign ads.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said the bill will come up for a vote as soon as next. He started the process on Tuesday night of bringing Democrats' new bill to the floor.

"Sen. Manchin is working with Republicans to secure support for the bill, and we look forward to hearing what changes they might make on legislation," Schumer said Tuesday.

"As majority leader, it is my intention to hold a vote on this bill as soon as next week," he added.


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