House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) on Sunday acknowledged that voting rights bills continue to appear ill-fated in the Senate, but said that he hasn’t lost hope for their eventual passage.
The remarks came after Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) reiterating their loyalty to the filibuster last week as Democrats looked to change Senate rules to push their election reform legislation through the evenly split chamber.
Pressed during an appearance on CNN on whether the voting rights legislation on the Hill is dead, Clyburn disagreed with the notion, but conceded that the bills “may be on life support.”
“But, you know, John Lewis and others did not give up after the ’64 Civil Rights Act. That’s why he got the ’65 Voting Rights Act,” Clyburn said.
Clyburn added that Democrats are “not giving up.”
“We’re going to fight,” Clyburn said. “And we plan to win, because the people of good will are going to break their silence and help us win this battle.”
Earlier in the interview, Clyburn also disagreed with Sinema’s remarks on the Senate floor shortly before President Biden met with Democrats to push for filibuster carveout for voting rights legislation. In addition to reiterating her support for preserving the filibuster, Sinema argued that getting rid of the 60-vote threshold would guarantee that senators would lose a “critical tool” needed to safeguard democracy in the future.
“She is not right about that. We just got around the filibuster to raise the debt limit. Why? Because we don’t want to put the full faith and credit of the United States at risk,” Clyburn said.
Clyburn then noted that Sinema isn’t being asked to disavow her support for the filibuster, but argued that a carveout should be a no-brainer regarding voting rights legislation.
“The filibuster is there for all of these issues that may be policy issues,” Clyburn said. “But when it comes to the Constitution of the United States of America, no one person sitting downtown in a spa ought to be able to pick up the telephone and say you are going to put a hold on my ability to vote. And that’s what is going on here.”
“So, I would wish they would stop that foolishness, because, if we do not protect the vote with everything that we have got, we will not have a country to protect going forward,” Clyburn continued.
Clyburn’s remarks come as various members of the Democratic caucus still look to hold a vote on rules changes, despite Sinema and Manchin’s opposition to a carveout. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that the Senate will take up voting rights legislation on Tuesday, a delay from his original Martin Luther King Day deadline due to an impending snow storm and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) testing positive for COVID-19.
Clyburn has been a vocal advocate for the Senate to do away with the filibuster when it comes to voting rights legislation.
Last year, Clyburn called on the President throw his support behind the idea of making legislation that applies to “constitutional rights” filibuster-proof.
Biden could “pick up the phone and tell Joe Manchin, ‘Hey, we should do a carve out,’” Clyburn told Politico in July. “I don’t care whether he does it in a microphone or on the telephone — just do it.”
Clyburn also warned Manchin and Sinema against the “catastrophic” move of letting the filibuster stand in the way of passing The For the People Act (which Senate Republicans filibustered in June).
“If Manchin and Sinema enjoy being in the majority, they had better figure out a way to get around the filibuster when it comes to voting and civil rights,” Clyburn told The Guardian in March.
Watch Clyburn’s remarks below: