Last week, Manchin proposed a compromise bill that would make voter registration automatic, set Election Day as a holiday, require at least 15 days of early voting for federal elections and prohibit partisan gerrymandering, but also require voter IDs with several ways to prove an individual’s identity, which many Democrats oppose.
In listing the positives in Manchin’s bill, Obama did not mention voter ID.
The former president noted on the call that he usually does not “weigh in on the day-to-day scrum in Washington.”
“But what’s happening this week is more than just a partisan bill coming up or not coming up to a vote,” he said, according to a transcript.
The Senate is poised to hold a test vote late Tuesday on an expansive voting rights bill that Republicans are likely to filibuster. GOP senators, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), also have said they would oppose the Manchin compromise.
Late Monday, the White House said President Biden met with Manchin, a session that was not on the official White House schedule.
Biden and Manchin discussed “their shared commitment to voting rights,” the White House said in a readout of their conversation. “The President expressed his sincere appreciation for Senator Manchin’s efforts to achieve reform. The President conveyed that he sees voting rights as one of the most urgent issues facing our nation during his administration, and made it clear how important he thinks it is that the Senate find a path forward on this issue.”
Obama warned the activists on the call that American democracy may not survive without some of these voting protections in place, invoking the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob as an example of what can happen when democratic norms are tested.
“We can’t wait until the next election, because if we have the same kinds of shenanigans that brought about Jan. 6, if we have that for a couple more election cycles, we’re going to have real problems in terms of our democracy long-term,” Obama said.
Obama took several shots at Senate Republicans who are expected to block debate on the voting rights legislation. He said if they were seriously concerned about legitimacy of voting, they’d work with Democrats including Manchin, who wants Republicans involved in the process, and negotiate these issues.
“Right now at least, Republicans in the Senate are lining up to try to use the filibuster to stop the For the People Act from even being debated,” Obama said. “They are suddenly afraid to even talk about these issues and figure out solutions on the floor of the Senate. They don’t even want to talk about voting. And that is not acceptable.”