Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Sunday that he will not vote for S.1, known as the For The People Act, the massive elections and ethics reform package Democrats have proposed.
The announcement immediately imperils the bill, which is universally opposed by Republicans and would require elimination of the Senate filibuster to be passed. The legislation was passed in the House this year.
"It's the wrong piece of legislation to bring our country together and unite our country, and I'm not supporting that, because I think it would divide us more," Manchin said on "Fox News Sunday." "I don't want to be in a country that's divided any further.
"I think there's a lot of great things in that piece of legislation, but there's an awful lot of things that basically don't pertain directly to voting," he said.
The legislation would require states to offer at least 15 days of early voting, universal access to mail-in voting and same-day registration for federal races. It would also make Election Day a national holiday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised a vote soon on the legislation — which counts the 49 other Democratic-voting senators as co-sponsors — along with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would allow the federal government to review discriminatory voting laws. Manchin said he supports the second bill and would want to expand "pre-clearance" for new election laws to all 50 states — beyond Southern states with histories of segregation.
Republican legislatures across the country have passed voting laws along partisan lines in light of former President Donald Trump's monthslong campaign of falsehoods about the 2020 election.
In an op-ed published Sunday in the Charleston, West Virginia, Gazette-Mail, Manchin argued that any federal voting legislation must have bipartisan backing, and he said he would not vote to kill the legislative filibuster, as some have said is needed to pass voting reforms.
"The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen," he wrote. And in speaking to West Virginians, "I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party's agenda."
Some Democrats quickly criticized Manchin's decision.
"Manchin's op-ed might as well be titled, 'Why I'll vote to preserve Jim Crow,'" Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., tweeted.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., tweeted, "We didn't need an op-ed to know you're unwilling to protect our democracy."
Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, tweeted that with democracy "unraveling" at "breakneck speed," she "can't understand the Dems contributing to that demise by failing to respond urgently to voter suppression laws happening in states like mine."
Meanwhile, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" that he did not support the For the People Act as written, adding that he is open to modifications. As for the filibuster, King said that "in general" he is against eliminating it.
"I'm very reluctant about it," he said. "But if it comes down to voting rights and the rights of Americans to go to the polls and select their leaders versus the filibuster, I will choose democracy."
And in a statement Sunday, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said that he was "disappointed" by Manchin's position but that he, too, is open to altering the legislation.
"In the face of a coup attempt incited by a president trying to overturn an election and a nationwide attempt to ensure that the will of the voters does not determine the outcome of future elections, I am dead set against doing nothing," he said.
"As I have told all my colleagues many times, I am open to any conversation about the provisions of this bill and will not give up on American democracy," he said.