June 6 (UPI) -- Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin broke with the party on Sunday, announcing that he will not vote for the For the People Act.
Manchin, who represents West Virginia, clearly stated his opposition to the sweeping voting rights bill and also said that he would not support Democratic efforts to alter filibuster rules to help push President Joe Biden's agenda through an evenly divided Senate in an op-ed for the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
"I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act," Manchin wrote. "Furthermore, I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster."
The For the People Act features a wide range of provisions aimed at expanding access to ballots and ending partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts including automatic voter registration for all who are eligible, ensuring the right to vote for those who have completed felony sentences, enhancing federal support for voting security and tightening fundraising rules for super PACs.
It was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., in January in response to the 2020 presidential election, and passed in the House by a vote of 220-210 in March, with just one Democrat joining all of the chamber's Republicans in opposing the measure.
Manchin cited the lack of Republican support in announcing his opposition to the bill, referencing GOP support for actions following the riot by supporters of former President Donald Trump on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
"This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support. Why?" Manchin said. "Are the very Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump because of actions that led to an attack on our democracy unwilling to support actions to strengthen our democracy? Are these same senators, whom many in my party applauded for their courage, now threats to the very democracy we seek to protect?"
"The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would update the formula states and localities must use to ensure proposed voting laws do not restrict the rights of any particular group or population," he said.
Manchin added that he does not support weakening or eliminating the filibuster to pass the voting rights measures through the Senate without Republican support, citing opposition by Democratic senators when Trump sought to remove the rule in 2017. To end a filibuster, 60 votes are needed.
"Do we really want to live in an America where one party can dictate and demand everything and anything it wants, whenever it wants?" said Manchin. "I have always said, 'If I can't go home and explain it, I can't vote for it.' And I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party's agenda."
Manchin's op-ed prompted pushback from Democrats, who criticized him for holding up protection for voters as both Florida and Georgia have implemented sweeping laws limiting vote-by-mail and other forms of voting and the Texas state Senate passed a bill restricting the use of mail-in ballots, limiting early voting hours and eliminating ballot drop boxes and drive-through voting locations, prompting condemnation from President Joe Biden and a walkout by House Democrats.
"The unraveling of our fragile democracy is occurring right in front of our eyes and at breakneck speed," Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas wrote on Twitter. "I can't understand the Dems contributing to that demise by failing to respond urgently to voter suppression laws happening in states like mine."