Joe Manchin praises Kyrsten Sinema’s refusal to tweak filibuster as voting rights bill stymied

Exclusive: Joe Manchin, a key moderate vote for President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, calls Kyrsten Sinema’s speech ‘excellent’

Eric Garcia,John Bowden
Thursday 13 January 2022 19:26
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<p>US Sen Joe Manchin </p>

US Sen Joe Manchin

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Senator Joe Manchin praised fellow conservative Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s speech in which she indicated she would not vote to eliminate the filibuster to advance voting rights legislation.

Mr Manchin spoke with The Independent on the way to a meeting between President Joe Biden and Democratic senators as the White House seeks to enact legislation ahead of the 2022 midterms and the next presidential election.

“Very good,” Mr Manchin said of his colleague’s remarks. “Excellent speech.”

Other Democrats were less complimentary. “I’d say the speech kind of speaks for itself,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said.

Ms Sinema delivered the speech on the Senate floor as Democrats hoped to change the 60-vote threshold to pass voting rights. Her speech comes days after Mr Biden spoke in Atlanta and forcefully called on Democratic senators to change the legislative filibuster.

During the address, she reiterated her support for Democrat-led voting rights legislation itself, as well as the measure preventing its passage.

“I strongly support, and will continue to vote for legislative responses to these state laws,” said the senator.

But, she added: "I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.”

Her decision puts a nail in the coffin for her own party’s push to institute any kind of reforms or safeguards for the right to vote before the 2022 midterms, when Republicans could potentially retake one or both chambers of Congress.

It is likely to also end any effort to pass further significant party-driven legislation in 2022, as the Democratic Party has failed to come to an agreement on President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better initiative and shelved that issue to tackle voting rights.

The Senate is now in an uncertain place, as Democrats are left wondering what more the Biden administration will be able to accomplish in the current political environment. That spells trouble for the White House and Ms Sinema’s fellow Democrats in Congress alike, as the president’s dismal approval ratings are only likely to worsen should Congress fail to get any significant legislating done in the months ahead.

Activists had held out hope for movement from either Ms Sinema or Mr Manchin on the issue of the filibuster after it was announced that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris would travel to Georgia this week for a national address focusing attention on the issue. The president’s forceful plea for action appears to have been for naught, however, while Republicans in the Senate were incensed by his words and took turns denouncing him in statements and floor speeches.

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