Not long after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced that the For the People Act would die at his hand, a Capitol Hill parlor game took root: Who, if anyone, can persuade the West Virginia Democrat to protect voting rights from a dramatic Republican assault?
At one recent Senate Democratic gathering, party leaders invited Marc Elias, one of the nation's leading election lawyers, to give a presentation on the severity of attack on the franchise. Last week, the conservative Democrat also heard from prominent civil rights leaders -- including the heads of the NAACP and the National Urban League -- who hoped to convey to Manchin just how serious the current threat to our democracy is.
Today, as Senate Democrats hold their first in-person caucus lunch in the Mansfield Room in a year, some special guests will share a perspective the party is eager for Manchin to hear. The New York Times reported:
As part of a series of meetings designed to rally support for the legislation, Senate leaders have invited Democratic members of the Texas legislature to make the case on Tuesday for why it is urgently needed. The Texans managed to stave off passage of a voter restriction bill in their state legislature last month with a dramatic late-night walkout, but that stunt cannot prevent the new rules from going into effect forever, as long as majority Republicans in Austin remain united. Many Democrats argue that only the enactment of superseding federal legislation mandating extended voting hours and mail-in balloting, as the party's far-reaching For the People Act would do, could accomplish that.
As regular readers may recall, it was over Memorial Day weekend that Texas Democrats managed to temporarily derail an odious Republican voter-suppression bill. Almost immediately after succeeding, those same legislators turned their attention to a different legislative body, 1,300 miles away.
"Now we need Congress to do their part," state Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Texas) said at the time. "Breaking quorum is about the equivalent of crawling on our knees begging the president and the United States Congress to give us the For the People Act and give us the John Lewis Voting Rights Act," Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-Texas) added.
Today, Texas Democrats won't be pushing senators from afar; they'll be pushing senators in person.
There's no reason to assume they'll win Manchin over. There's also no reason to assume the West Virginian will necessarily hear their pitch.
Last week, when Senate Democrats had a "frank and candid" discussion about voting rights legislation behind closed doors. (In Congress, "frank and candid" is generally a euphemism for a meeting featuring excessive shouting and profanity.)
Reporters asked Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) whether Manchin addressed his Democratic colleagues during the meeting. "He wasn't there," Durbin said. "I didn't see him."
Update: A Politico reporter noted this afternoon that Manchin did not attend today's caucus lunch, which suggests the senator who most needed to hear from Texas Democratic legislators missed their pitch.
Second Update: According to an NBC News report, the group of Texas Democratic lawmakers who blocked Republican voting restrictions secured a last-minute meeting with Manchin's staff.
Third Update: Schumer said the Texas legislators received several standing ovations from Democratic senators during the closed-door lunch. It's a shame Manchin wasn't there to see it.