Biden Publicly Calls Out Manchin & Sinema Over Voting Rights

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President Joe Biden seemed to single out Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) for criticism in remarks delivered on Tuesday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, when a mob of white assailants destroyed dozens of square blocks within the town’s Black community, murdering dozens of Black Americans in the process. Biden touted the imperative push for voting rights, especially as Republicans around the country put forward suppressive new voting restrictions, but he noted that Manchin and Sinema’s stances have posed a problem.

Both Manchin and Sinema have vocally opposed the elimination of the filibuster, a procedural mechanism in the Senate that allows members of the chamber’s minority party to stop most legislation from moving to a final vote, thereby indirectly stopping its enactment. Under Senate filibuster rules, the agreement of 60 Senators in the 100-member chamber is required to move forward with most bills, and that provision means that the agreement of members of the minority is almost always required to proceed ahead. Thus, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) currently has a form of veto power in the Senate, although certain spending-related bills are exempt from filibuster rules.

Meanwhile, in Tulsa, Biden commented as follows:

‘As for the act of voting itself, I urge voting rights groups in this country to begin to redouble their efforts now to register and educate voters. And June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill. I hear all the folks on TV saying, “Why doesn’t Biden get this done?” Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends. But we’re not giving up.’

Although Biden didn’t name the West Virginia and Arizona Senators, his point seems pretty clear. Manchin and Sinema haven’t cast formal votes in line with Republicans at the rate that Biden’s remarks may suggest, but they have made abundantly clear that, were an elimination of the filibuster to come up for a vote, they’d be sticking to the side of the issue that Republicans currently gather around — for now, at least. A change of mind on the Senators’ part could be possible. They’ve touted the importance of preserving order and bipartisanship in the Senate, although Republicans don’t seem inclined towards honest bipartisan negotiations at the level that Manchin and Sinema might imagine.