The Democrats’ sweeping elections bill is still expected to die within hours. But they won a small victory Tuesday when Sen. Joe Manchin agreed to join his fellow Democrats in voting for a procedural measure to bring the measure to the floor.
Senate Republicans are still expected to block the “For People Act,” a top priority for Democrats and the left,” from being debated.
But by getting the support of Mr. Manchin, who had been the caucus’ lone holdout, Democrats can now present a united front in supporting the bill, creating a contrast with Republicans whom they plan to bludgeon on the campaign trail over the measure.
The bill would revamp campaign finance laws, create automatic voter registration, expand access to early and absentee voting, and override state laws that, according to critics, will make it harder for minorities to vote.
The measure would also limit states’ ability to remove people from voter rolls and increase federal funds for election security.
Republicans have mounted stiff opposition to the legislation, blasting it as a federal take over of state-controlled elections.
Mr. Manchin, who had been the lone Democratic holdout, said in a statement that others in the caucus had agreed to “reasonable changes” he suggested.
“Over the past month, I have worked to eliminate the far-reaching provisions of S.1, the For the People Act – which I do not support. I’ve found common ground with my Democratic colleagues on a new version of the bill that ensures our elections are fair, accessible and secure,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement.
“Today I will vote ‘YES’ to move to debate this updated voting legislation as a substitute amendment to ensure every eligible voter is able to cast their ballot and participate in our great democracy,” he added.
It wasn’t immediately unclear what changes Democrats agreed to.
A sticking point for Mr. Manchin had been that the bill would have barred states from requiring photo IDs to vote. It allowed those voting in person to present only a sworn statement attesting to being who they said they were. And it only allowed states to require a signature to vote by mail.
Mr. Manchin said in the statement that “the bill has been modified to include voter ID requirements that aim to strengthen the security of our elections without making it harder for Americans to vote.”
Mr. Manchin had suggested voters be able to present other documentation like utility bills at the polls.
Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer confirmed getting Mr. Manchin on board, telling reporters, ”we worked it out.”