Rep. Jim Clyburn called Joe Manchin’s push for bipartisanship over passage of voting rights legislation ‘insulting’

Jim Clyburn
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

  • Rep. Clyburn is highly critical of Sen. Manchin’s position on the For the People Act.
  • Manchin is the only Senate Democrat who has not signed on as a cosponsor of the bill in 2021.
  • Clyburn argues that the Senate filibuster must be put aside to pass the sweeping voting rights bill.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Democratic House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina said in an interview with The Huffington Post that he felt “insulted” by how Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has approached the For the People Act, the sweeping voting rights package also known as H.R. 1 and S. 1.

Manchin is the only Democratic senator who has not signed on as a cosponsor of the legislation this year, arguing that the federal government should not infringe on election law, which has generally been dictated by individual states.

The moderate senator has emphatically stated that a major elections reform bill must be crafted and passed with bipartisan consensus, which would including voting rights.

“Pushing through legislation of this magnitude on a partisan basis may garner short-term benefits, but will inevitably only exacerbate the distrust that millions of Americans harbor against the US government,” he said in a statement in late March.

Clyburn alleged that Manchin was elevating bipartisanship with Republicans over the voting rights of minority groups in the US.

“I’m insulted when he tells me that it’s more important to maintain a relationship with the minority in the US Senate than it is for you to maintain a relationship with the minority of voters in America,” Clyburn told The Huffington Post. “That’s insulting to me.”

Clyburn said Manchin was jeopardizing Democratic congressional majorities by not backing legislation that would reverse many of the most stringent voting restrictions being implemented by GOP-controlled states, including Georgia, where Sen. Raphael Warnock is up for reelection in 2022.

“Since when do their rights take precedence over your fellow Democrat Warnock, who saw his state just pass laws to keep him from getting reelected?” he asked. “And you’re going to say it’s more important for you to protect 50 Republicans in the Senate than for you to protect your fellow Democrat’s seat in Georgia. That’s a bunch of crap.”

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

The House passed H.R. 1 by a 220-210 vote in early March with almost unanimous backing among Democrats and no Republican support.

GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has harshly criticized the bill, calling it a “power grab.” His conservative-dominated Republican caucus is overwhelmingly in agreement, making bipartisan support incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

With the likelihood of a GOP filibuster facing S. 1, Clyburn said that Senate Democrats need to alter filibuster rules to move the bill through the chamber.

“The issue of civil rights and voting rights, these constitutional issues, should never be sacrificed on the altar of the filibuster,” he said. “I’ve been saying that for a long time.”

He added: “I don’t understand why we can’t see that my constitutional rights should not be subjected to anybody’s filibuster.”

Clyburn said that if the party allowed the For the People Act to falter in the Senate, then it would “pay the biggest price it has ever paid at the polls” in 2022.

“That is an actual fact,” he said. “I think I know Black people. I’ve been Black 80 years.”

Clyburn, one of the most prominent Democratic politicians in the Deep South and the figure most credited with reviving President Joe Biden’s campaign in the 2020 Democratic primaries, said that he feels as though the president will push for the bill to get through the Senate.

After Biden won the presidential election last November, he gave a nod to Black voters in his acceptance speech, saying that the highly influential group and pillar of his electoral support “always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”

Recalling Biden’s statement from last year, Clyburn reiterated the president’s commitment to voting rights.

“The best way to have the backs of Black folks is to ensure the constitutional rights to cast an unfettered vote – there ain’t no better way than to do that,” Clyburn said. “Joe Biden is not going to allow the voting rights of Black people to be sacrificed on the altar of the filibuster.”

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Bad politicians should be held accountable by the American people, not by corporations

For the People ACt Nancy Pelosi steps of Capitol
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks on H.R. 1, For the People Act, on the steps of Capitol Hill on March 3, 2021.

  • After the Capitol attack, many corporations pulled funding from politicians who supported Trump.
  • Some of the companies are already changing course, showing that it was likely a PR stunt.
  • Americans cannot rely on corporations to speak for them. Congress needs to pass the For the People Act to amplify Americans’ voices.
  • Eric Lutz writes for Vanity Fair and the Guardian, among other publications.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a MAGA mob stormed the United States Capitol in January in an effort to overturn the 2020 election results, the corporate world quickly worked to distance itself from Donald Trump and other Republicans who had helped instigate the riot.

Companies, from Goldman Sachs to Walmart, suspended political donations. The Chamber of Commerce, typically a cash cow for the GOP, promised to withhold money from lawmakers who promoted Trump’s “Big Lie.” And, in perhaps the most personal blow to the former president, the PGA pulled its 2022 championship from Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey golf club. “The US business community has interests fully in alignment with the American public,” one professor in Yale’s management school told USA Today amid the exodus, “and not with Trump’s autocratic bigoted wing of the GOP.”

That was, in retrospect, a rather optimistic take on what was transpiring. But one can be forgiven for taking heart in the corporate retreat: Lawmakers obviously wouldn’t expel Sen. Josh Hawley, one of the lawmakers who helped spearhead the objection to the election results. Trump’s second impeachment trial was sure to end with another acquittal. But perhaps, at the very least, there’d be some financial consequences. The private sector would speak, and it would say: Get lost.

But the corporate pullback was never going to last, because it was never really about accountability. In the immediate aftermath of the deadly siege, it was a bad look to be associated with the politicians who egged on the pro-Trump rioters. But for some of corporate America, the commitment lasted only as long as the country’s political memory, which is to say, not very.

Just a PR move?

As Popular Information reported earlier this week, several corporations that had distanced themselves from politicians whose actions didn’t align with their “company values” had quickly – and quietly – reversed course. Intel donated to the National Republican Campaign Committee. AT&T and Cigna each contributed funds to organizations run by GOP objectors to Joe Biden’s victory.

That’s just three of five dozen corporations that vowed to pull political donations, either entirely or from Republicans alone. But, Bloomberg News reported recently, more are likely to follow in the coming months. While some objectors, including Hawley, will likely remain on a “no-fly list,” Bloomberg reported that the retreat was “never meant to be a shutdown of the Wall Street money machine.” Not every firm has reneged on its promise, but for many, the change wasn’t meant to be permanent.

“There was a feeling that companies need to take a stand, and that was probably met with a concern about the brand,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told Bloomberg. “If companies so quickly and easily backtrack on the PAC suspension, it will prove to be a PR move.”

If it does, the fact that it was such a seductive move is telling. American voices are so muted in the corridors of power that it is perhaps only natural to take heart in the notion that companies will speak for us. Corporations should be applauded for standing up for American values and following through, but that alone is not an effective mechanism of accountability, nor is it a reliable one. Bad politicians should be held accountable by the American people, and Americans should be empowered to do so.

Hope in a bill

There’s some hope for that in the For the People Act, which passed the House earlier this month. The bill, sponsored by Democrat John Sarbanes, would not only expand voting rights in America, safeguarding these rights against GOP suppression efforts that have recently found footing in Georgia, it would also significantly dilute the influence of big money in politics by strengthening the power of small donations. The bill ideally would make politicians more accountable to the people they represent as opposed to corporate and big dollar benefactors.

But without amending or abolishing the filibuster, the bill stands no chance of passing in the Senate. President Biden has recently thrown his support behind restoring the “talking filibuster,” which requires a senator to actually speak the whole time on the Senate floor and thus makes its use more difficult. Republicans, though, have suggested they’d be willing to do that to defeat the Democrats’ election bill. “There is no amount of time that I will not dedicate on the Senate floor to stopping the Democrats from passing this kind of radical legislation,” GOP Senator Tom Cotton told reporters recently.

Democrats must therefore be prepared to take even more aggressive action against the filibuster to pass the For the People Act and amplify Americans’ voices in the two venues they’re best heard: in the ballot box and in the campaign coffers. Accountability should not be dependent on the whims of big dollar donors or the demands of companies’ bottom lines.

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