A brief explanation of the filibuster, in case you’ve been living as a hermit for years and this is the first article you’ve read since reemerging from your mud-baked hut in the woods: Most legislation requires 60 votes to advance in the Senate, and Democrats have a 50-seat majority. As long as the 60-vote threshold is in place—and it will remain so, given the opposition to changing Senate rules to eliminate or weaken it from all Republicans, Sinema, and Manchin—the voting rights bills cannot pass.
“I hope we can get this done. But I’m not certain,” Biden said after meeting with Senate Democrats. “Every other civil rights movement that came along, if we missed the first time, we come back and try it a second time. We missed this time.”
Manchin released his own statement later on Thursday reiterating his position, although he waited until after hearing from the president to do so. “The filibuster plays an important role in protecting our democracy from the transitory passions of the majority and respecting the input of the minority in the Senate,” Manchin said. “For those who believe that bipartisanship is impossible, we have proven them wrong. Ending the filibuster would be the easy way out. I cannot support such a perilous course for this nation when elected leaders are sent to Washington to unite our country by putting politics and party aside.” (Nevertheless, Biden persisted: Manchin and Sinema were set to travel to the White House to meet with the president on Thursday evening.)
The two bills were brought to a vote in the Senate through a complicated procedural gimmick. In the House, Democrats gutted an unrelated bill pertaining to NASA and replaced the text with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. The House voted along party lines on Thursday morning to send that bill to the Senate. (Representative Don Beyer, whose bill was hollowed out, was circumspect about the situation. “I told the speaker last night, ‘Anytime you need to gut one of my bills to do something really important, it’s fine,’” he told The New Republic with a laugh.)