With Democrats preparing to take up the bills in earnest, Senate Republicans led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed openness to changing the Electoral Count Act of 1887, which establishes the process for the certification of presidential elections. Democrats, including the White House, deemed that narrower focus to be wholly insufficient and an attempt to distract from more comprehensive reforms. Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) says he will support some changes to Senate rules, but not elimination or carve outs of the legislative filibuster. Manchin, along with other centrist hold-out Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), is also holding talks with a bipartisan group of senators on options for fortifying the Electoral Count Act.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), a White House confidant and the third-ranking House Democrat, took offense to Manchin’s argument that changes to Senate rules should be bipartisan, saying “we just don’t have enough Democrats who are in touch with the history of this country, or they’d stop saying some of this foolishness.”
“I am, as you know, a Black person, descended of people who were given the vote by the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 15th amendment was not a bipartisan vote, it was a single party vote that gave Black people the right to vote,” said Clyburn. “Manchin and others need to stop saying that because that gives me great pain for somebody to imply that the 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution is not legitimate because it did not have bipartisan buy-in.”
Asked about the desire by some Democrats like Manchin and Sinema to get support from across the aisle, Richmond said it would be unrealistic to expect Republicans to come along when they’ve voted against the bills to date.
“These bills being passed in all of these Republican legislatures to restrict the right to vote, to put obstacles in the way of the right to vote to subvert the vote, all of those have been done on a partisan basis with Republican-only votes,” Richmond said. “And so to think that that same party that is doing that on a partisan basis would come along in the Congress and vote to safeguard from them, may not be realistic.”
Manchin’s office declined to comment.
For Georgia Democrats, the debate around the passage of election reforms is particularly acute as Republicans in the state have ushered in a host of changes. The remade political landscape — twin Senate victories last year a day before the Capitol insurrection in Washington that breathed new life into Biden’s agenda — has combined to raise the stakes.
Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), who has been in touch with the White House ahead of the visit, said she expects Biden to provide specifics about how he plans to move the issue forward.
“I think coming to Atlanta, coming to the 5th Congressional District, I am sitting in the seat that was once held by Congressman John Lewis,” Williams said. “We’re the cradle of the civil rights movement. You don’t come to Atlanta just for another speech. This is about action.”
It couldn’t come soon enough for Democrats in her state. Most notably, a 2021 Georgia law backed by the GOP and signed after Biden’s victory, among other things, curbs absentee voting drop boxes to early voting sites, requires additional ID for absentee voting and allows state takeovers of county elections.