In a U.S. Senate split 50-50 on partisan grounds, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the two Democrats who seem most willing to break ranks and vote with the Republicans, has acquired extraordinary importance. One of the areas in which this matters of voting rights. The Supreme Court in two recent decisions has restricted enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the Democrats want to legislate in order to remove those restrictions.
There are two distinct voting rights bills now before the Senate, the sweeping For the People Act and the more narrowly targeted John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The John Lewis Act is drafted specifically to restore requirements that certain states (those deemed to have a suspect record on matters of racial equity) must receive federal approval before making changes to voting laws.
Manchin agrees with at least some features of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and he has been looking for Republicans who agree with him, and who might form with him and fellow centrist Democrat Krysten Sinema to create a bloc that can determine the shape of such legislation.
The Thing to Know:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is among the Republicans who have been talking to Manchin on this issue. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo), who is the highest ranking Republican on the rules committee, is another.