Sen. Joe Manchin, a key vote in the effort to pass federal voting rights legislation, on Thursday said he and a group of Texas House Democrats, who have fled their state in an effort to block restrictive voting bills, have come to a “total agreement” on what they want, which is “basically to protect voting rights.”
Since arriving in Washington on Monday, Texas Democrats have sought meetings with members of Congress to urge them to pass federal voting rights legislation, including the For the People Act, the sweeping Democratic voting and election bill shot down by Senate Republicans last month.
Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, has for weeks been at the center of the conversation on voting rights because of his opposition to eliminating the filibuster. Removing the legislative hurdle would allow Democrats to pass legislation with a simple majority.
After meeting with members of the Texas delegation, Manchin said the next step is to put together a pared-down bill that focuses solely on protecting the right to vote and the procedure of voting.
“We work with the Voting Rights Act that we had, started in 1965, and what we’ve evolved into, and basically make a piece of legislation, one piece of legislation that protects the rights of voting, the procedure of voting, democracy, the guardrails on democracy, that’s all. And there shouldn’t be a Republican or Democrat should oppose it,” Manchin said.
Asked why he thinks Republicans would support a pared down bill, Manchin said: “You know why? Because they’ve had a bill that’s 800 pages long, they’ve had everything thrown at them. Let’s get back to the basic rights of voting, protecting voting rights.”
Texas state Rep. Joe Moody – one of the Democrats at the meeting in Washington – said the Texas delegation was pleased by its conversation with Manchin.
“Senator Manchin was very generous with his time, and Texas Democrats were heartened by our talks with him. We have no doubt that he completely shares our goal of protecting voting rights for all Americans, and we all realize that this is a struggle that won’t be over in just a few days—it’s a journey, one we look forward to taking together,” Moody said in a statement to CNN.
However, back in Texas, House Speaker Dade Phelan on Thursday issued an order stripping Moody of his position as speaker pro tempore.
The role of speaker pro tempore, largely a ceremonial role, is to carry out the Speaker’s duties in their absence.
Following his removal, Moody said on Twitter Thursday, “The most important titles in my life will never change: Dad, Husband, El Pasoan. Nothing political has ever even cracked the top three, so nothing has changed about who I am or what my values are.”
He added, in a separate statement to CNN, “I followed my conscience knowing that doing the right thing could cost me, but not fighting would’ve cost even more: the civil rights of Texans. The job I swore an oath to do is to defend our Constitution, so I’d make that trade any day. Titles come and go, but my commitment to the people of El Paso and this state will always remain.”
Moody was appointed to the position by Phelan during this year’s regular session. He also served as speaker pro tempore under a different Republican state House speaker in the 2019 session.