Dems’ voting reform bills on ‘life support’

Dems' voting reform bills on 'life support'

Rep. James Clyburn admitted on Sunday that the Democrats’ voting reform bills are on “life support” but vowed that he and his colleagues will “win this battle.”

“They may be on life support, but, you know, John Lewis and others did not give up after the ’64 Civil Rights Act. That’s why he got the ’65 Voting Rights Act,” Clyburn (D-SC) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“So, I want to tell everybody, we’re not giving up. We’re going to fight. And we plan to win, because the people of good will are going to break their silence and help us win this battle,” Clyburn added.

The Democrats’ voting rights legislation — the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act — suffered crushing blows last week when Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said they opposed changing the Senate filibuster.

Sinema, speaking moments before Biden was to lobby senators on Capitol Hill last Thursday, said she was against unilaterally altering the filibuster in the interests of protecting bipartisanship. 

People their cast ballots at the Richland County Voter Registration & Elections Office on the second day of in-person absentee and early voting.
People cast their ballots at the Richland County Voter Registration & Elections Office in the October 2020 presidential election.
Getty Images / Sean Rayford

“We must address the disease itself, the disease of division, to protect our democracy,” Simena said during a floor speech. “And it cannot be achieved by one party alone.”

The filibuster requires 60 votes. With Sinema and Manchin on board, Democrats could get to 51 with Vice President Harris to get the measures to pass with a simple majority.

Clyburn, the House majority whip, said Sinema is wrong about opposing creating a filibuster carveout for voting rights, noting that Democrats and Republicans agreed to a one-time exception to the Senate rule last month to raise the debt ceiling. 

“Why? Because we don’t put the full faith and credit of the United States at risk. No one has asked her to eliminate the filibuster. The filibuster is there for all of these issues that may be policy issues,” he said.

Jake Hannay casts his in-person absentee ballot at Seacoast Church West Ashley on October 30, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina.
Democrats have opted to use an unrelated bill extending NASA’s property leasing authority as the vehicle to send both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act to the Senate.
Getty Images / Michael Ciaglo

“But when it comes to the Constitution of the United States of America, no one person sitting down … 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,” Clyburn said. 

He also said he supports Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer bringing the election reform bills up for a vote on Tuesday in the upper chamber where Republicans have blocked debate on the measures. 

Clyburn was asked on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” whether that might put more focus on Democrats’ disunity following Sinema and Manchin’s refusal to change the filibuster.

“Yes, that is always a threat, but the fact of the matter is – I’ve said it and I’m going to say it again – we need to know who is with us and who is not, so we will know how to conduct ourselves going forward. We operate now in the blind,” Clyburn said.

“Let’s have these votes. Let’s let people have this debate. And let’s see where we stand, so we will know how to conduct ourselves,” he added. 

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), appearing on “Meet the Press” after Clyburn, said the Biden administration hasn’t reached out to him about finding common ground on the election reform bills.

“I never got a call on that from the White House. There was no negotiation bringing Republicans and Democrats together to try and come up with something that would meet bipartisan interest,” Romney said.

Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, said there are Republicans who are willing to work with Biden on some issues.

“We care about education. We care about health care. We obviously care about infrastructure. There’s a lot that we can do together. We care about immigration,” he told host ​Chuck Todd. “These are things we can do together. And the president’s been in the Senate. He knows what it’s like and how you have to work on a bipartisan basis​.”

People line up to cast their in-person absentee ballots at the Berkeley County Library on October 30, 2020 in Hanahan, South Carolina.
People line up to cast their in-person absentee ballots for the 2020 election at the Berkeley County Library in Hanahan, South Carolina.
Getty Images / Michael Ciaglo

Circumventing negotiation by ditching the filibuster sets a bad precedent, Romney continued. ​

“​But the idea of saying blow up bipartisanship and just let whoever​’s​ got the slight majority to do whatever they want, that’s not the right way to get things done in America,” he said. “And it’s not the way to unite America. Uniting America finds a pathway in bringing people together and working on a collaborative basis​.”

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