Squad member targets Manchin, as lawmakers, progressive activists implore Dem to 'save' democracy

The left turns up the heat on the West Virigina Democrat

Pressure continues to mount on Sen. Joe Manchin to support Democrats' signature election overhaul legislation, with one Squad member penning a new op-ed accusing the West Virginia moderate of protecting "Jim Crow" relics. 

Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., called out Manchin in an essay titled "The House of Democracy is on Fire. We Must Save It" where he said the senator must make a choice between his long-shot desire for bipartisan compromise and saving democracy. 

"By dooming our democracy in the name of bipartisanship, Senator Manchin is betraying both," Jones wrote, arguing the provisions of the election reform legislation have widespread support outside of the partisan Senate. 


Jones, a freshman progressive in the House, criticized Manchin for wanting to protect the filibuster, too, and said by doing so he's backing discriminatory voting measures.

"We cannot let this Jim Crow relic cement the new Jim Crow," Jones wrote of the filibuster. 

Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., speaks before the Supreme Court on April 15, 2021, on his legislation to expand the Supreme Court. 

Despite the outrage from the left and ramped-up outreach from activists, Manchin, D-W.Va., shows no signs of budging on his opposition to the For the People Act, known as H.R. 1 in the House and S.1 in the Senate. 

Manchin says the legislation is too partisan and voting reforms should be the result of bipartisan compromise. Manchin also said he won't blow up the Senate filibuster because he doesn't support absolute power for one party.

"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," Manchin wrote in an op-ed Sunday in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.


With the Senate split 50-50, the only chance Democrats had of passing this legislation would be to get 10 Republicans on board, which won't happen with the GOP firmly in opposition. Or, if Democrats stayed completely united, they could pass the legislation if they also agreed to get rid of the legislative filibuster that requires a 60-vote threshold.

But Manchin's opposition gives Democrats no viable options of passing their top-priority legislation in its current form. Manchin has suggested the pathway forward is a separate voting rights bill named for the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis, but Jones and other Democrats say that bill is no substitute for the sweeping reforms that S. 1 would mandate. 

At a rally outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, activists, joined by Democratic lawmakers, turned up the pressure on Manchin to change his mind. 

"We have a bill that America supports," said Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes, who helped author the bill in the House. "The For The People Act is supported by Democrats, independents and Republicans from all across the country in every single state, including in the state of West Virginia."

Fellow senators at the rally were hesitant to call out their colleague by name, but progressive activists made clear who they were targeting.

"I want to say to Senator Manchin: If you can't bring this bill to the floor and support transformational reform and the most sweeping civil rights bill in 50 years, then what the hell is the Senate for?" said Matt Keller, vice president of Democracy 21.

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, stands in an elevator in the Senate Subway of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 27, 2021.  Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ben Jealous, president of the progressive People For the American Way, said Manchin should realize that the provisions of the bill are popular. 

"Inaction is not an option. Democracy is at stake," Jealous said. "The people have been clear, and Joe Manchin needs to understand that what 80% of the American people agree on, guess what, West Virginians overwhelmingly agree on too."

Progressives view the S.1 voting legislation as an urgent remedy to efforts in GOP-led states to impose stricter voting requirements after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.

The legislation sets out federal standards for access to the polls, early voting and voting-by-mail and weakens state-mandated voter ID requirements by allowing those without photo identification to still vote by signing sworn affidavits.

The sweeping election overhaul legislation would set up a new public financing system for congressional and presidential elections to incentivize small-dollar donations, enact automatic voter registration, restore voting rights to felons after they have completed their sentences and mandate same-day voter registration.


Manchin Tuesday acknowledged the trouble he's causing progressives and reacted to Squad member Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., dubbing him the "new Mitch McConnell" for obstructing the Democratic agenda. 

"I understand the frustrations," Manchin said. "Ya know, this is a tough business we're in."

Fox News' Kelly Phares contributed to this report.