When Rep. Jim Clyburn speaks, he expects Democrats, including the president, to listen. The elder statesman sees a filibuster exception as the only way to move forward with election reform.
In an interview with Politico, Clyburn said President Joe Biden needs to get aggressive with action on the filibuster. Clyburn stopped short of demanding a complete abolition of the procedure.
But he thinks there should be action taken where the legislation involves constitutional rights. The White House has suggested it supports a “talking” filibuster, but the Biden Administration remains reluctant to support even the exception suggested by Clyburn.
Clyburn isn’t the first to suggest tweaking the filibuster. Voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams previously suggested relaxing the filibuster. Four months ago, Abrams wrote an op-ed calling for the filibuster exception.
“If Republican senators, representing a minority of Americans, attempt to thwart much-needed legislation to protect voting rights for all, Democrats should take bold action to protect our democracy,” Abrams wrote. She also highlighted Republicans setting a precedent for a filibuster to carve out to pass the Trump tax cuts benefiting wealthy Americans.
Others have called for outright abolishing the filibuster. Leading civil rights and Democracy reformers see Republican refusal to reach a consensus on election reform as a grave threat to the state of American Democracy.
In the past two months, Republicans have filibustered an inquiry into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and a discussion on the For the People Act, a key piece of legislation that was drafted to protect voting rights.
After the Republicans’ filibuster shut down discussions to advance the For the People Act, the nonpartisan Fair Election Center released a statement from its President and CEO Robert Brandon pointing to the broad support among all Americans. “Supported by 8 in 10 Americans, this bill can help bring us closer to the true ideals of American democracy,” said Brandon.
He reiterated the argument against the filibuster expressed by many voting rights and civil rights leaders. “Unfortunately, the filibuster, a tool deeply rooted in white supremacy that has long been wielded to block legislation advancing social and political equality, currently stands in the way of enacting these crucial measures.”
Introduced in the Senate as S.1, the For the People Act is a sweeping democracy reform bill with notable bipartisan support from all corners of the political spectrum except Congress.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema continue to be roadblocks to changing course on the filibuster. Taking action Sunday, the group Indivisible called on its members to contact their senators and demand the filibuster be eliminated from passing the Senate version of the For the People Act.
Despite both senators dancing around the issue of bipartisan support, no Republican senators have made meaningful steps or concessions on the topic. And there’s no indication 10 Republicans will break ranks with their party leadership to back the important legislation.
A group of concerned community members in North Charleston, South Carolina, is urging Sen. Tim Scott to support the People Act. According to local news reports, Scott’s office deflected from the request calling it a “power grab” by Democrats. A local ABC affiliate quoted Lawrence Moore, the director of Carolina for All, Lawrence Moore, as calling it a typical move by Scott.
“We’re not here to be concerned about left and right,” Moore told ABC 4. “What we are concerned about is our democracy. To make America great, we got to make sure it’s America.”
Clyburn also expressed concern about prospects for 2022 without election reform, giving Georgia as an example.
One of the candidates who inspired historic turnout in Georgia, not once but twice, Sen. Raphael Warnock, gave floor remarks during the debate on the discussion of the For the People Act last month, urging his Republican colleagues to allow debate to move forward.
“Let’s have a principled conversation in front of the American people about voting rights,” said Warnock. “How derelict in our duty would we be if, in this defining moment, we refused to even have a debate about how best to preserve and protect that which is most precious: the democracy itself.”
As a voting rights advocate from Georgia, Warnock understands what is at stake firsthand. Late last month, he introduced legislation to improve state and local election security. Called the “Preventing Election Subversion Act of 2021,” Warnock’s bill creates additional safeguards to prevent partisan pressure on state and local election administration.
“What could be more hypocritical and cynical than invoking minority rights in the Senate as a pretext for preventing debate about how to preserve minority rights in the society?” Warnock questioned.