House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) on Thursday called on the Senate to do away with the filibuster if the new voting rights bill Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is set to bring to the floor next week is blocked.
Appearing on MSNBC, Clyburn was asked to respond to Schumer setting up a vote for the Freedom to Vote Act, which is the newest iteration of the For the People Act that was modified to get filibuster-loyalist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on board.
Clyburn replied that he hopes Manchin will follow through on his promise to bring along 10 Republicans to allow debate on the bill to go forward, but if that doesn’t happen, the Senate will need to pierce the filibuster.
“If he doesn’t, we’re going to have to get around this filibuster,” Clyburn said. “I hope this will demonstrate to Sen. Manchin the need to do so. I can’t imagine that he will allow a filibuster to stop the Black folks in his state and other states from exercising their right to vote.”
Clyburn noted that the filibuster has been weaponized historically by southern states to restrict voting rights from Black people, particularly in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia.
“Historically we have a West Virginia because they rejected second class citizenship and broke away from Virginia over the whole issue of slavery,” Clyburn said. “So West Virginia has got a pretty good history and I hope Joe Manchin will recognize that history and not perpetuate that which would have happened had West Virginia had not seen the light.”
Asked if he trusts that Manchin will whip the vote before it heads to the Senate, Clyburn doubted that would be the case, and argued that the centrist senator will likely have to come around to a filibuster carveout to push the new voting rights bill forward.
“Do I trust it? I don’t think so. I’m hopeful, but I don’t think he will. I think he’s going to have to relent on the filibuster,” Clyburn said. “Nobody’s asking him to give up the filibuster. We’re saying treat the voting rights and constitutional rights when it comes to the filibuster the same way you treat the budget.”
“Reconciliation is used to keep the majority from keeping us away from full faith and credit of the United States of America and we are going the same thing when it comes to protecting voting rights and other constitutional rights,” Clyburn continued. “You can’t let the filibuster ruin that.”
Without citing any evidence, Manchin has claimed since the Freedom to Vote Act’s introduction in mid-September that there are 10 Republicans who will help Democrats defeat the filibuster. Despite Manchin’s claim, there has virtually been no Republican support for Democratic proposals. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) appears to be the only Republican senator who has shown interest in any of Democrats’ voting rights bills, expressing openness to the John Lewis Voting Act.
This isn’t the first time Clyburn has urged a filibuster carveout for voting legislation. The top Biden ally called on the President in July to 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.”
Last March, Clyburn warned centrist Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) 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: