House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) told CNN anchor Jake Tapper that his party’s planned election overhaul bills were not yet dead — but he did admit “they may be on life support.”
Clyburn joined Tapper for Sunday’s broadcast of “State of the Union” to discuss the bills — the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, both of which are expected to be brought before the Senate later this week — and the fact that Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) effectively blocked their passage when she announced earlier in the week that she would not support changes to the filibuster.
Dem. WHIP Rep. James Clyburn says the election reform bills are not dead, but he allows that “they may be on life support,” adding, “we’re not giving up. We’re going to fight and we plan to win because the people of goodwill are going to break their silence and help us win.” pic.twitter.com/gdhjL2OmVx
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) January 16, 2022
Tapper began the segment by referencing President Joe Biden’s recent speech in Georgia, where he promoted the two bills by comparing anyone who opposed them to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, segregationist George Wallace, and Bull Connor — who set dogs against Civil Rights protesters.
“What do you say to Democrats who say that that went too far to compare somebody who opposes changing the filibuster with a traitor who fought a war for slavery?” Tapper asked, noting that Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) had conceded exactly that point earlier in the week.
“I would ask those people, what do you think is going too far?” Clyburn asked, repeating the false claim that the Georgia voter integrity law prevents anyone from giving water or food to voters who are standing in line and claiming that every part of the Georgia law “violates the Constitution” — although he stopped short of explaining how.
Clyburn went on to claim that Biden’s words should not matter when held up against the “deeds” of legislators who were working to pass stricter voter integrity measures.
“For us to focus on the president’s words and not pay any attention to the deeds of those legislators in Texas, in Georgia and 17 other states that passed 35, 34 laws that are draconian when it comes to voting, that’s where our attention ought to be,” he said.
Tapper pivoted then to Sinema, who said in a floor speech that she was in favor of voter reform legislation like the two bills in question, but that she did not believe getting rid of — or even modifying — the filibuster was a legitimate option. Instead, she warned that removing that safeguard would likely backfire if and when Republicans were in power again. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has voiced similar thoughts on the issue, and neither was willing to support the filibuster changes Biden called for in his speech.
“Doesn’t she have a point, the Democrats might need that filibuster as soon as 2025 to stop Republicans from imposing even harsher voting restrictions?” Tapper asked.
“She is not right about that,” Clyburn said. “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. No one has asked her to eliminate the filibuster. The filibuster’s there for all of these issues that may be policy issues. 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’s going on here. So I wish they would stop that foolishness. Because if we do not protect the vote with everything that we’ve got, we will not have a country to protect going forward.”
Tapper then asked the key question: “Are the election reform bills dead, do you think?”
“No, I don’t. They may be on life support,” he conceded, adding, “John Lewis and others did not give up after the ’64 Civil Rights Act. That’s why he got the ’65 Voting Rights Act.”