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On Tuesday, prominent civil rights leaders implored Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia to help find a way forward in Congress for legislation to protect the right to vote, arguing with the opponent most outspoken Democrat that its enactment was an existential imperative.

The virtual meeting between Mr. Manchin and leaders of the NAACP, National Urban League and National Action Network had been planned for weeks, and it yielded no breakthrough. But it was particularly timely, coming two days after the West Virginian made his most unequivocal statement yet in opposition to the Democrats’ landmark election billthe law for the people and to undo legislative obstruction.

The statements appeared to close the only viable avenue for broad legislation that would thwart a wave of Republican state laws restricting ballot access.

Attendees said their goal was to start building a relationship with Mr. Manchin, a centrist from a deep red state, and asking him to take action – not fuel a confrontation. Conversation was limited to political details, although Mr. Manchin told leaders he planned to continue a long-running bid to gain Republican support for a narrower voting bill that would strengthen the law on the voting rights of 1965.

“At the NAACP, we understand the sausage making of public policy and because of that, we appreciate Senator Manchin and the pivotal role he plays,” said Derrick Johnson, the group’s president and CEO. “So it was an opportunity to work on a solution, not complain about a problem.”

But Mr Johnson suggested that Mr Manchin’s stated position that he could not support ‘partisan’ voting legislation – meaning any bill that did not have the backing of at least some Republicans – was untenable. Others were more direct.

“Let me be clear here. We started by asking him to reconsider his position,” said Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. “He didn’t say he was going to reconsider. But we’re not giving up.”

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr Manchin hailed the civil rights leaders as “the most powerful, informative and respectful group I have spoken to in a long time”. He said he intended to speak with the group again, although the discussion did not cause him to reconsider.

“I don’t think anyone has changed their position on this; we just learn where everyone is coming from,” Mr. Manchin said.

Mr. Manchin previously said he was opposed to changing the filibuster rule and did not support the For the People Act, also known as Senate Bill 1. But on Sunday, he made those hypothetical positions more concrete, in an op-ed. in the Charleston Gazette Mail which made it clear that he plans to vote “no” later this month when Democratic leaders hold a vote on Senate Bill 1. He also said he would never support changing the rules that require supporters of legislation to muster 60 votes to pass a filibuster, dashing the hopes of many of his colleagues that he might eventually be persuaded to do so.

Party leaders were rebellious on Tuesday. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and Majority Leader, said he would move forward with a vote on the bill later this month and was engaged in private talks with Mr Manchin on amending the bill to win his vote to move the debate forward.

“Is it possible that we change a few things here and there? Mr. Schumer said. “We are going to do it.”

The Reverend Al Sharpton, president and founder of the National Action Network, said he and other civil rights leaders could not get a clear answer from Mr Manchin on the substantive concerns he had with the ballot measure. , other than to say he wanted to find Republicans who would support such a bill.

“I think we’ve made it clear that it’s unlikely,” Reverend Sharpton said in an interview. “I am a minister, but there is a difference between faith and fantasy.”

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