Obama said the Manchin compromise did not include everything he wanted but suggested the matter was too important to do nothing.
The former president told grassroots activists during a call for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee that he does not usually “weigh in on the day-to-day scrum in Washington,” according to The Washington Post.
“But what’s happening this week is more than just a partisan bill coming up or not coming up to a vote,” he said, according to a transcript.
Under his plan, Manchin backs making Election Day a national holiday, implementing automatic voter registration, mandating at least 15 days of early voting before federal elections and requiring voter ID with allowable alternatives.
Manchin has “come up with some commonsense reforms that the majority of Americans agree with, that Democrats and Republicans can agree with,” Obama said.
In his list of positives, the former president did not praise the voter ID requirement, a top priority for Republicans.
Progressive leaders such as Stacey Abrams and Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., have come out in support of the Manchin voting bill, and even denied that they were ever against voter ID in the past.
But even with the voter ID requirement, Manchin will be hard-pressed to find 10 GOP votes, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the bill “totally inappropriate” and said he thought “all Republicans” would vote against it.
“It still turns the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from a judge into a prosecutor by taking away the three-three balance and making it 3-2 Democratic,” McConnell said.
McConnell was referencing an element of S. 1 that would change the FEC from a body with six members, three from each party, to a body with two members from each party and a fifth nonpartisan individual appointed by the president. Republicans say the fact that President Biden would appoint the nonpartisan individual defeats the purpose.
It would also, McConnell said, “remove redistricting from state legislatures and hand it over to computers. Equally unacceptable. Totally inappropriate.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., maintains that the original S. 1 For the People Act is absolutely necessary, and that there will be a vote on the Senate floor Tuesday that could pave the way for considering Manchin’s proposal. With the legislative filibuster in place, at least 10 Republicans would have to join all Democrats to open debate.
Obama also said on the call that America’s democracy may not survive “long-term” if a voting rights bill is not passed, pointing to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“We can’t wait until the next election, because if we have the same kinds of shenanigans that brought about Jan. 6, if we have that for a couple more election cycles, we’re going to have real problems in terms of our democracy long-term,” Obama said.