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Manchin Proposes Changes to Federal Voting Overhaul Bill, McConnell Calls it 'Equally Unacceptable'

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), pauses for reporters after working behind closed doors with other Democrats in a basement room at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Overhauling how America votes became a top priority when Democrats gained control of the Senate. Next week, the Senate is set to take up the House passed H.R. 1 or "For the People Act," a bill that completely overhauls federal voting laws. Now, all eyes are on moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who won't back the bill unless changes are made first. 

Manchin's office circulated a memo proposing what he would like to see before voting in favor of the measure, but he's not confident all of his Democratic colleagues will agree. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stressed this week that the bill is a top priority for Senate Democrats, and said he's listening to Manchin.

"We're working with others as we speak including Sen. Manchin to see if we can get a big strong bill passed," Schumer told reporters. "We have to get it done. It's very important, it will be voted on."

With the filibuster intact, Schumer needs 50 Democrat and 10 Republican votes to send it to President Biden's desk. Republicans, however, are strongly opposed to the bill that gives unprecedented federal control over state elections. 

"The mother of all power grabs is going to fail," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "This has nothing to do with voting. It has everything to do with locking in power by the left."

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The current bill expands mail-in voting, allows same-day voter registration, outlaws voter ID requirements, creates a nonpartisan process for drawing congressional districts and establishes a federal campaign finance fund.

"Chuck Schumer, he should like this a lot. He has the chance of getting $44 million in your tax money for his campaign," claimed Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). "That's wrong. We should never be taking taxpayer dollars and giving it to politicians to go run attack ads and win an election."

Manchin claims he's open to getting on board if the bill allows things like limits to mail-in voting, uses computer models to draw congressional districts, requires voter IDs but allows alternatives like utility bills, and leaves out the public financing system for campaigns.  But even if Democrats agree to his changes, Republicans are still not on board.

"Equally unacceptable, totally inappropriate, all Republicans I think will oppose that as well," commented Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Manchin's proposed changes. 

In his memo, Manchin said he believes federal voting reform "must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials."

In a press conference Thursday, Senate Republicans expressed doubt that the bill that's brought to the Senate floor next week is Manchin's.  

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) also said while he looks for opportunities to work with Manchin, he doesn't support his proposal.  

"When Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Manchin's proposal, it immediately became the Stacey Abrams substitute and not the Joe Manchin substitute," Blunt said. 

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