U.S. Senate Democrats scrambled to unite around a sweeping election reform bill they hope to begin debating next week, in the face of Republican opposition and moves by several states to pass laws placing new restrictions on voting.
JOE MANCHIN: "It's always a big hill around here." Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said on Thursday that he hoped to make a deal with Republicans on a voting rights bill.
MANCHIN: "You gotta keep climbing and climbing.
And we're gonna keep climbing." But down the hall, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell flat-out rejected his compromise proposal, saying it still retained the first bill's "rotten core." MCCONNELL: "Equally unacceptable.
All Republicans, I think, will oppose that as well if that were to be surfaced on the floor." Some Democrats expressed optimism over Manchin's compromise plan, which was endorsed by voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams on Thursday.
MANCHIN: "I've been talking to Stacy, you know.
I've talked to everybody.
And I've been working across the aisle with all the Republicans trying to get people to understand that that's the bedrock of our democracy: an accessible, fair, and basically secured voting." It was not yet clear whether any Republicans would climb aboard, however.
MIKE LEE: "This bill isn't about strengthening democracy.
This bill is about strengthening Democrats." Republicans, including Senator Mike Lee, said they believed the voting rights bill would make it easier to vote illegally.
Republican lawmakers in a number of politically significant states have passed a wave of new restrictions on voting this year, fueled by former President Donald Trump's false claims that his election defeat was the result of widespread fraud.
The issue is urgent for Democrats, who hold razor-thin majorities in both houses of Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would hold a crucial test vote on Tuesday on whatever bill Democrats agree upon in the next few days.