MEDIA WATCH--Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is quietly signaling that he may vote against the Equality Act as sources say that he’s telling colleagues that a massive rightwing call-in campaign has him scared.
During his campaign, President Joe Biden said that he would sign the Equality Act in his first 100 days in office. But 71 days in and it doesn’t have a clear path in the Senate. Several moderate Republicans have come out against it, and now there’s doubt that even all Democrats support it.
The Equality Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights legislation, extending discrimination protections to LGBTQ people. The bill is popular – 70% of voters support it and even most Republicans support banning discrimination against LGBTQ people – but Christian conservatives fiercely oppose it, arguing that not being allowed to discriminate would violate their religious freedom.
The bill passed the House in February. Every Democrat and three Republicans voted for it while 206 Republicans voted against it.
But the Senate was always going to be a tougher battle. The current rules in the Senate require 60 votes to end a filibuster on a bill, and there are only 50 Democrats in the Senate. This means that 10 Republicans would have to cross party lines in order for it to pass if every Democrat supports it.
And now sources are saying that one Democrat might be getting ready to vote against it. Sources told The Daily Beast that Manchin is telling colleagues that he’s having doubts about the bill.
They said that Manchin told a co-sponsor of the Equality Act that his office was targeted for a massive call-in campaign organized by Christian conservative groups and that the calls his office got about the Equality Act have been “a thousand to one” against it.
He has not stated publicly whether he will support the bill or not – his office won’t comment on it – but the leak could be Manchin getting his excuse ready for when he votes against the bill.
In 2019, he was the only Democratic senator that did not co-sponsor the bill, citing his opposition to protecting transgender students from discrimination.
“I am not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it, particularly with respect to students transitioning between genders in public schools,” he said at the time.
It would be devastating if he opposed it. It’s hard to imagine ten Republicans vote to end the filibuster on the Equality Act, much less 11 if one of the Democrats opposes it. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has already said he opposes it and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has expressed reservations.
The filibuster can be removed by a simple majority of the Senate and then only 50 votes plus the vice president would be needed for it to pass. But Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Manchin have said that they will not vote to end the filibuster. Manchin’s vote in favor of the bill would also be needed under that scenario.
Biden suggested bringing back the “talking filibuster” several weeks ago by requiring senators to actually talk during a filibuster instead of just sending an email to say that they’re filibustering. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) responded by saying that he would “talk until I fell over” to prevent the Equality Act from passing.
LGBTQ people and allies who support the Equality Act and feel like talking until it passes are being encouraged to call Manchin at 202-224-3954 to discuss the bill.
(Alex Bollinger writes for lgbtqnation.com … where this piece was first posted.)