House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) on Sunday told CNN that he plans to speak with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) about his vehement opposition to eliminating or weakening the filibuster amid Democrats’ efforts to advance their sweeping voting rights bill.
In an op-ed published in the Washington Post last week, Manchin, a moderate Democrat who plays a key role in the 50-50 Senate, argued that the filibuster, a Senate procedure that requires 60 votes to pass legislation, is “a critical tool to protecting that input and our democratic form of government.” The West Virginia senator also signaled that he opposes using budget reconciliation to pass Democratic legislation.
Pressed on CNN about his upcoming meeting Manchin after Congress returns from recess, Clyburn said he plans to school the West Virginia senator on the history of the Senate.
“I’m going to remind the senator of exactly why the Senate came into being. If you know the history of the Senate, the Senate was not always an elective office,” Clyburn said. “It used to be — they used to be sent to Washington by their state legislatures. And that was a compromise.”
Clyburn explained that changes ensued when the Senate became an elective office, before arguing that the same applies for the filibuster.
“The filibuster was put in place to extend debate. And debate, it gives you time to bring people around to your point of view,” Clyburn said. “The filibuster was not put in place in order to suppress voters, in order to overrun the minority. It was there to make sure that minorities in this country have constitutional rights and not be denied by filibuster.”
Later in the interview, Clyburn said that he shares President Biden’s view that Georgia’s new election laws are the “new Jim Crow.”
“Yes, I do, no question about it,” Clyburn said, when asked whether he agrees with some Democrats’ condemnation of Georgia’s restrictive voting law.
Clyburn went on to point out that restrictive election measures aren’t solely restricted to Georgia as a growing amount of states have proposed legislation limiting voting access.
“Georgia is just the one that is taking it to finality. But these thoughts are being expressed in other states as well,” Clyburn said. “And they know full well that these are ways to suppress voters, to keep people from exercising their rights.”
Last month, Clyburn warned 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, known as HR1, that would expand voting access. Both of the centrist Democratic senators have faced criticism from those in their party over their opposition to eliminating the filibuster.
“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 said in an interview published in The Guardian days after the House passed HR1.
Although Sinema expressed full support for HR1 last week, noting that she was a cosponsor, the Arizona senator failed to mention her opposition to eliminating or reforming the filibuster, nor the obstacles it presents in Democrats’ efforts to push their sweeping voting rights bill forward.