01:51 - Source: CNN
Joe Manchin plays monkey wrench to Democrats' plans
CNN  — 

The lone Republican working with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on a bill to restore a key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act acknowledged Tuesday the steep climb to get enough support to break a GOP-led filibuster.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge,” said GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. “You have Democrats who made clear that they’re going to line up pretty much, without the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin.”

“To get to 60, it’s pretty difficult to count,” the Alaska senator added.

Murkowski’s blunt assessment underscores how any legislation to overhaul voting laws is highly unlikely to pass the 50-50 Senate over the next two years given stiff resistance voiced by Manchin and a handful of other Democrats over changing the filibuster rules so legislation can advance along straight party lines.

The move comes as Democrats are trying to determine their strategy over this key issue knowing they lack the votes but facing an onslaught of Republican-led efforts to pare back rules that eased voting access during the pandemic.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is a narrower elections bill that is far less sweeping than the For the People Act, a signature voting overhaul bill that is a key priority for Democrats, but brings back major pieces of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, including a provision that requires states to consult with the federal government before making major changes to their voting rules.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed on Tuesday that the House will work to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. In a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi wrote that “it is essential that H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, become law. When we pass H.R. 4, we must do so in a way that is ironclad constitutionally,” adding, “H.R. 4 must be passed, but it will not be ready until the fall.”

Pelosi wrote in her letter to Democrats that the John Lewis voting bill “is not a substitute” for the sweeping voting overhaul legislation, saying the For the People Act “must be passed now.”

In a recent op-ed outlining why he will not vote for the For the People Act, Manchin argued in favor of the John Lewis bill, by saying that there is bipartisan support behind it and noting that Murkowski has joined him in calling for it to be passed through regular order.

But there is no indication that there would be 10 Republican senators willing to vote for it to overcome a filibuster, with some Republicans already throwing cold water on the prospect of passing such a bill. Manchin has also made clear he does not support eliminating the filibuster requirement to lower the voting threshold for passage.

Manchin told reporters Tuesday morning that his meeting with the NAACP and other civil rights activists was “constructive,” and called them the “most respectful group I’ve spoken to in a long time,” but that the discussion did not change his mind on S.1.

“I don’t think anybody changed positions on that, we’re just learning where everybody’s coming from,” Manchin said.

He added, “They helped me, so informative.”

CNN’s Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.