- 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.
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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.”
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.”