In a major blow to Democrats’ hopes of passing sweeping voting rights protections, West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has said he would oppose his party’s flagship bill.
Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Manchin, who is considered a key vote to pass the For the People Act, said he would not support the bill because of Republican opposition to it.
It "is the wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together and unite our country, and I'm not supporting that because I think it will divide us further," added Manchin.
The bill, which all the other Senate Democrats have supported, would ensure automatic and same-day registration, place limits on gerrymandering and restore voting rights for felons.
For many Democrats, the bill is vital to counter Republicans’ efforts in state government to limit access to the ballot and to make it easier to overturn election results.
It would also provide voters with a forceful answer to claims by former president Donald Trump that the November election was rigged.
Manchin, in a column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, also said, “I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act.”
This is not the first time the senator has sided against Democrats. At times, he has proven to be a thorn in President Joe Biden administration's side by crossing party lines to oppose legislation or block White House appointees.
He has also persistently opposed attempts to eliminate the filibuster, which would make it easier for Democrats to pass legislation.
He said Sunday, some Democrats have "attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past."
His plan to oppose the For the People Act, if brought to the Senate floor, will complicate matters for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who wants to advance it in spite of having no Republicans’ support.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the lead sponsor of the bill, said he was disappointed by Manchin's intention.
"I am open to any conversation about the provisions of this bill, and will not give up on American democracy," he said in a statement.