Key Manchin Constituency Demands Urgent Action On Voting Rights

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The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) — a key interest group behind Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — issued a statement in recent days that demanded urgent action by the Senate on voting rights. The organization issued this statement after Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) joined every Senate Republican in voting against a proposed rules change that would have allowed for the passage in the Senate of certain voting rights protections, so although the entity didn’t mention Manchin by name in their statement, the implications — placing pressure on Manchin — seem obvious.

The mine workers association itself has stated that they “have a long and friendly relationship” with Manchin. The statement on voting rights is credited to UMWA International President Cecil B. Roberts and reads as follows:

‘The right to vote is essential to ensure a strong democracy within the United States, however, state after state is encouraging discriminatory legislation to restrict citizens’ access to voting. Restricting voting rights wipes away 60 years of progress our nation has made to expand these rights. It is unamerican and outright wrong to prevent anyone in our society from having a voice in the election process. Congress needs to act and act soon. Pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.’

This occasion is not the first recent juncture when the mine workers organization has weighed in on a national policy debate. Late last year, after Manchin went on Fox and proclaimed that he was opposed to the sweeping social spending proposal known as the Build Back Better Act, the association laid out certain components of the initiative, like penalties for employers who upend the creation of unions, that would be critical for their ambitions. At the time, Roberts (to whom that earlier statement was also credited) added that he wanted to “reiterate our support for the passage of voting rights legislation as soon as possible, and strongly encourage Senator Manchin and every other Senator to be prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish that.”

Changing the filibuster rules would be necessary for succeeding in the voting rights push because of consistent Republican opposition to the voting rights initiatives. At present, those rules require that at least 60 Senators agree before moving forward with most bills, meaning that a simple majority in the chamber can’t perform certain basic functions of governing. The current close party breakdown in the chamber means that every Democrat would have needed to agree in order to implement a rules change.