President Joe Biden on Monday met with two Democrat senators who have so far refused to support some of the more radical party priorities, including an election bill that would federalize major components of elections.
Biden convened with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in the afternoon at the White House. According to a White House official, the pair “discussed their shared commitment to voting rights.”
Manchin has been reluctant to back S.1. The bill, also known as the For the People Act, would dramatically alter the way elections are run. Manchin has described it as “partisan voting legislation.”
But more recently, the senator has been negotiating with fellow Democrats to try to reach a compromise on the bill, which is a top priority of both the White House and the Democrat leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.
“We are working to come up with an agreement to compromise with Joe Manchin,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters in New York over the weekend.
Manchin last week released a list of election reforms he does support, including a nationwide voter identification law and mandating at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections.
The senator and his office have not commented on the meeting with Biden, which also included discussion of an infrastructure bill framework that Manchin and other moderates recently put forth.
Biden later met with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has resisted calls to eliminate the filibuster, or the 60-vote threshold that applies to most bills in the upper chamber. They talked about the infrastructure negotiations.
“The President thanked each Senator for their engagement toward making historic investments in economic growth, middle class jobs, and the clean energy economy, and told them he was encouraged by what has taken shape but that he still has questions about the policy as well as the means for financing the bipartisan group’s proposal,” the White House official said.
“The President also made clear that he is at the same time focused on budget resolution discussions in the Senate. And they agreed to stay in touch over the coming days.”
A group of Republican and Democrat senators reached an agreement on key points for an infrastructure bill, but Schumer is still working on ramming a separate bill through the Senate using reconciliation, which lowers the voting bar from 60 to 50 votes. Democrats used the tool to push through the latest COVID-19 relief package. That legislation received zero Republican votes.
Republicans and Democrats each have 50 votes in the Senate, but Democrats hold the majority because Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tiebreaking votes in her role as president of the body.
After the Sinema-Biden meeting, Sinema penned an op-ed that emphasized why she opposes removing the filibuster. She said she believes “bipartisan cooperation” is the “best way to achieve durable, lasting results.”
“I understand bipartisanship seems outdated to many pundits. But the difficult work of collaboration is what we expect in Arizona. And I still believe it is the best way to identify realistic solutions—instead of escalating all-or-nothing political battles that result in no action, or in whipsawing federal policy reversals,” she wrote, noting that Democrats used the filibuster throughout the last administration.
“To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For the People Act (voting-rights legislation I support and have co-sponsored), I would ask: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections, over the objections of the minority?” she added.