Carl Hulse NYT analysis:
Democrats and progressive activists who have been working for months on a sweeping voting rights bill quickly embraced on Thursday a new, far narrower plan suddenly put forward by Senator Joe Manchin III, their party’s sole holdout on the issue.
Their decision to do so did nothing to improve the chances that the legislation could get through the Senate, but it reflected another significant goal for Democrats: uniting the party around what it has billed as its highest priority and showing that, were it not for Republican opposition and the filibuster, the elections overhaul would become law.
Much to the growing consternation of Senate Republicans, the alternative ideas put forward by Mr. Manchin — a centrist from West Virginia and the only Democrat who has refused to support what is known as S. 1 — quickly gained traction with progressive Democrats and activists, most notably Stacey Abrams, the voting rights champion in Georgia.
On Thursday, she praised his plan, even though it is more limited in scope than the original Democratic measure. The proposal would make Election Day a holiday, require 15 days of early voting and ban partisan gerrymandering, among other steps….
With a test vote on the measure looming next week, Mr. Manchin’s opposition to the voting rights measure threatened to be a major embarrassment for Democrats. Republicans were eager to pounce and proclaim that with Mr. Manchin on their side of the vote tally, it was the opposition to the bill that was bipartisan, not the legislation itself.
So if Mr. Manchin could be brought on board by granting him some pride of authorship on provisions Democrats deemed reasonable and worthwhile, they appeared more than ready to agree. As Mr. Schumer took procedural steps to set up a vote on the elections bill as early as Tuesday, a spokesman was quick to note that the measure being put on the floor could “act as the vehicle for the voting rights legislation being discussed with Senator Manchin.”
With Mr. Manchin’s support, Democrats could then claim at least a symbolic victory, if not a legislative one, when Republicans block the bill through a filibuster….
Though some Republicans had previously expressed willingness to talk to Mr. Manchin about a potential elections compromise, it seemed impossible to imagine even a few — let alone 10 — of them siding with Democrats on a measure that was eliciting such wrath. Mr. Blunt indicated there was no conceivable Democratic bill he could support.
In a show of the depth of the party’s opposition and outrage, 15 other Republicans joined Mr. McConnell at a news conference on Thursday. One by one, they impugned the measure and the Democrats for backing it, vowing to defeat it.