Barack Obama said he backed Sen. Joe Manchin’s voting reform bill compromises.
Manchin suggested ideas to overcome GOP opposition to a bill defending voting rights.
Obama warned restrictive legislation in some states could corrode US democracy if left unchecked.
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Former President Barack Obama said he supports a compromise deal proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin to defend voting rights.
Obama said that Manchin’s proposal was one of the only viable ways to combat a state-by-state voting suppression drive by the Republican Party.
A comprehensive Democratic bill defending voter rights, the For the People Act, is expected to be blocked by Republicans when its brought to the Senate this week.
The bill was introduced to counter a wave of measures by GOP-controlled state legislatures restricting access to voting and in some cases making it easier for results to be canceled.
Republicans say the bill is too extensive and infringes on the rights of states to decide how to hold elections.
They are likely to deploy the filibuster rule to stop it becoming law. The rule means a bill can be blocked unless 60 senators vote for it, meaning Democrats have to find 10 votes from the GOP caucus to pass most legislation.
A series of compromises brokered by Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, would limit some of the measures in a bid to win over some Republicans.
The suggestions are gaining support from key figures in the Democratic Party, including Obama, the two-term former president.
In an interview with Yahoo News he hailed the Manchin deal as a “product of compromise.”
He said that that it was “an effort by maybe the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, or maybe the most conservative Democrat in Congress … to come up with some commonsense reforms that the majority of Americans agree with, that Democrats and Republicans can agree with.”
Manchin’s compromises expand early voting, make Election Day a national holiday, and ban partisan gerrymandering. They also include stricter voter ID rules,a key Republican demand.
Obama admitted that Democrats had also been guilty of partisan gerrymandering but stressed the urgency of the threat to democracy in America as he sees it.
“Republican politicians who didn’t like the outcome of the presidential election … now want to change the rules for how ballots are counted, and who gets to count them,” Obama said.
“I have tried to make it a policy not to weigh in on the day-to-day scrum in Washington, but what is happening this week is more than just a particular bill coming up or not coming up to a vote,” he said.
“Around the world, we’ve seen once-vibrant democracies go in reverse. It is happening in other places around the world, and these impulses have crept into the United States. … We are not immune from some of these efforts to weaken our democracy.”
“If we have the same kinds of shenanigans that brought about Jan. 6, you know – if we have that for a couple more election cycles, we’re going to have real problems in terms of our democracy long term.”
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already signaled opposition to Manchin’s revisions.
But Manchin has continued to argue that consensus can be reached. He also supports a revised version of the John Lewis Act, a bill designed to restore voter rights protections introduced in the 1960s that was gutted by a 2013 Supreme Court decision.
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