Congressional Democrats have made voting rights legislation their top legislative priority of 2022 but their ambitions are being thwarted by Sen. Joe Manchin’s, (D- W.Va.), reluctance to change the filibuster thus putting their goals in jeopardy. 

Democrats have been looking to pass two separate pieces of legislation the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting rights bill. 

The Freedom to Vote Act would establish automatic and same-day voting registration, protect mail-in voting, make election day a national holiday, prohibit partisan gerrymandering, expand protections for minority voters, and make campaign finance laws more transparent. 

The John Lewis Voting Rights Bill would restore section 4(b) of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was gutted by a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that would mandate states to seek approval from the Justice Department if they want to change their election laws. 

Democrats intend to pass both bills in the House first but if they are to make it to President Biden’s desk they both need 60 votes to break the filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D- N.Y.), vowed earlier this month he would force a vote to change the rules of the Senate by Jan. 17. 

“I wouldn't want to delude anybody into thinking this is easy, but we're trying to come to a place where 50 senators can support two bills -- the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Act -- and with a change in the rules, so we can get the votes to pass these bills into law," Schumer said.

Democrats could vote to change the filibuster to a carveout, which would only require a majority vote to pass both voting rights bills. Doing so would require a unanimous vote from all 50 Senate Democrats but Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, (D- Ariz.), have both been wary to do so. 

Talks with the two senators have been “intense,” according to one Senate source and they have not had any breakthroughs. Biden was in Atlanta on Tuesday giving a speech urging his fellow Democrats to change the rules to get the vital pieces of legislation passed. "I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking actions on voting rights," he said.

Neither Manchin nor Sinema is opposed to voting rights legislation and Manchin has drafted his own bipartisan voting rights legislation with many of the same protections including mandatory early voting windows and mail-in voting options. "Voting is very important. It is a bedrock of democracy. But to break the opportunity for the minority to participate completely — that’s just not who we are,” Manchin told reporters.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, (D-S.C.), rejected Manchin’s argument and said the 15th amendment was passed completely on party lines giving black men the right to vote. Clyburn spoke with Manchin on Wednesday and says he is “hoping” the West Virginia Democrat can be persuaded to change his mind.