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Manchin circulates list of demands for voting legislation

What's next for federal voting rights bill?
National Urban League leader on prospects for federal voting rights bill 12:30

Washington — Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has circulated a list of demands for voting legislation among his Democratic colleagues, indicating he may be willing to consider a revised version of the sweeping voting and elections reform bill that the Senate will take up at the end of the month.

Manchin previously expressed his opposition to S. 1, known as the For the People Act, raising concerns about passing partisan voting legislation. Supporters of the bill note that several Republican-led states are advancing laws that would restrict voting rights along party lines, and say that S. 1 is necessary to counter these actions.

Manchin told reporters on Wednesday that he had shared with his colleagues "things I can support and vote with" in the For the People Act.

"People were assuming that I was against S. 1, because there was no Republicans supporting it. That's not the case at all," Manchin said. "I said basically, you should not pass any type of a voter bill in the most divisive time of our life unless you have some unity on this thing, because you just divide the country further."

According to a copy of the list obtained by CBS News, these areas of support include provisions banning partisan gerrymandering and mandating at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections. Manchin's list also includes areas of compromise relating to ethics and campaign finance.

However, he supports some provisions that could be unpopular with progressive Democrats, such as requiring a voter ID with "allowable alternatives" for providing proof of identity to vote and allowing elections officials to purge voter rolls. He also does not appear to support no-excuse mail-in voting, although he would want to require states to send absentee ballots to eligible voters ahead of an election.

The list also does not address one of the most controversial campaign finance portions of the bill, which would provide public financing for congressional elections.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday began the process to bring the legislation to the Senate floor for consideration next week. In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Schumer said that "we Democrats wish a voting rights bill would be bipartisan," but added that "Washington Republicans seem dead set against all remedies."

"The idea that we can have some kind of bipartisan solution to this partisan attack on democracy befuddles me," Schumer said.

Schumer told reporters later on Thursday that the Senate would vote on a motion to proceed with the bill next Tuesday.

Manchin is currently the lone Democrat who is not a co-sponsor of the bill. He told reporters on Thursday that he had been in contact with Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist, to discuss the bill, along with other stakeholders. 

"I've been working across the aisle with all the Republicans trying to get people to understand that that's the bedrock of our democracy — an accessible, fair, and basically secured voting," Manchin said.

Abrams threw her support behind the bill on Thursday, but Republican Senator Roy Blunt said this endorsement was proof that even an amended bill would be too liberal.

"Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Manchin's proposal, it became the Stacey Abrams substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute," Blunt said in a press conference.

Some Senate Democrats appeared encouraged by Manchin's list, seeing it as proof that the moderate Democrat is willing to work with his colleagues on the issue. Senator Jeff Merkley, who introduced the bill, told reporters on Wednesday that he believed Manchin was "making a really valuable contribution by being engaged on such important issues like defending the right of freedom of every American to vote."

Senator Raphael Warnock said that he supported Manchin's changes, adding that "we are making considerable progress." The Democrat from Georgia has been a harsh critic of the restrictive voting measure passed in his state by the Republican legislature and signed into law by the Republican governor this year.

"We might squabble about one or two things but I am not about to sacrifice the good in pursuit of the perfect," Warnock said.

Senator Brian Schatz told reporters that he believed it was a "thoughtful proposal" and "a move in the right direction." However, he and other Democrats have previously raised concerns about any amended bill being blocked by the filibuster.

Manchin has repeatedly said he would not support eliminating the filibuster, which would allow legislation to pass in the Senate with a simple majority of votes.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told reporters Thursday that he was concerned about provisions that weren't included in Manchin's list.

"What he includes is by and large, good. What he excludes is troublesome," Durbin said.

Manchin's list also included demands for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has not yet been introduced, but would restore a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. That provision required certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to receive approval, known as preclearance, from the federal government before making changes to their voting rules.

Manchin's demands for this bill include decreasing the attorney general's authority in determining whether a state or jurisdiction violated voting rights and establishing "objective measures" for determining whether a state or jurisdiction has a pattern of discrimination.

Manchin presented his proposal to his fellow Democrats in a meeting on Thursday afternoon, in a conversation that Senator Tim Kaine said was "very promising."

"He gave a really good presentation about it," Kaine said.

But even if Manchin's changes to S. 1 were implemented, it's unclear whether that bill would garner any support whatsoever from Republicans, who are unilaterally opposed.

Since the bill would require 60 votes to advance in the Senate and Democrats only hold 50 seats, the measure would fail even with Manchin's support unless it got support from 10 Republicans — which seems increasingly unlikely.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement on Thursday that he would not support a revised bill, saying "it still retains S. 1's rotten core."

But Manchin seemed unfazed by McConnell's opposition, telling reporters that "McConnell has a right to do whatever he thinks he can do."

"I would hope that there's enough good Republicans who understand the bedrock of our society is having an accessible, fair open, election," Manchin said.

Manchin also noted to reporters earlier on Thursday that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski had expressed support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, meaning that only nine more Republicans would be needed in order for it to advance.

"The bottom line is you just got to keep working, you can't give up on this stuff and you just can't separate our country any further," he said.

Jack Turman and Alan He contributed to this report.

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