Texas Democrats meet with Manchin on voting rights

Roughly a dozen Texas Democrats who fled their state to come to Washington met Thursday in a Capitol Hill basement with the Senate Democrat who holds the key vote in Congress on voting rights legislation, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

But apparently, the subject of Manchin making an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rule for voting rights never came up.

Emerging from the hour-long meeting, Manchin told reporters, “It was a very good meeting. It was a very informative meeting, and basically, we’ve all come to a total agreement that what we want is basically to protect voting rights. That’s it. A voting rights bill with guardrails. That’s all.”

The centrist Democratic senator, who has refused to support an exception to the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to move forward on most legislation in the 50-50 Senate, said that hot topic pushed by many voting rights activists wasn’t even discussed.

PHOTO: Sen. Joe Manchin arrives to meet with members of Texas House Democratic Caucus at the Capitol. July 15, 2021 in Washington, D.C. They aim to meet with Senate members to discuss voting rights after fleeing Texas to block a voting restrictions bill.

“A filibuster doesn’t need to (happen),” Manchin insisted after the meeting, claiming, “There shouldn’t be a Democrat or a Republican that wouldn’t or couldn’t or shouldn’t vote for something that truly just only deals with voting and the rights of voters.”

Later, the Texas Democrats confirmed to reporters that the filibuster indeed wasn’t mentioned, saying that was by design.

“I think enough people have discussed the filibuster with Joe Manchin. That’s the elephant sitting in the room. Everybody knows what the deal is,” said state Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso, the now-former speaker pro tempore of the Texas House after Republicans voted to strip him of that title.

The meeting comes a day after President Joe Biden made an impassioned speech calling Republican efforts to restrict voting rights an “assault on democracy” but didn’t mention Manchin or the Senate filibuster rule.

Manchin said he is working on legislation, but it is not clear if that would be a new effort, or if it would be the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, designed to restore and modernize the 1960s era- process of “pre-clearance” by the Justice Department that protected minority populations from discriminatory laws in states with a history of discrimination.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down a section of the federal Voting Rights Act that voided that pre-clearance process as outdated.

And Texas Democrats said they are “100%” confident that what Manchin is trying to do will protect what they want to accomplish.

PHOTO: Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus Chris Turner, center, speaks at a news conference held by Democratic members of the Texas state legislature, outside the United States House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 13, 2021.

“We were encouraged by his comments and I think we know what his path is and it’s to focus on something a lot more narrower than S.1 and to focus on something that specifically addresses voting rights and pre-clearance,” said state Sen. Carol Alvarado, referencing the sweeping election reform bill — calling for expanded mail-in and absentee voting, requiring automatic voter registration, and major campaign finance and ethics reforms — that the Senate voted down last month.

But whether there is sufficient bipartisan support for narrower legislation is also unclear, though Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski has said she will help rally her conference to back the effort.

Getting legislation through the Senate at this time would be extraordinarily difficult with infrastructure and budget bills expected to consume months of floor time starting next week.

ABC News’ Alisa Wiersama contributed to this report.

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