Clyburn: Voting rights bill is ‘democracy versus autocracy’


WASHINGTON  (NewsNation Now) — While many see the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as a pipe dream, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn says the cause is worth the uphill struggle.

“If they do it to African-Americans today and people of color, they’ll do it to others in the not-too-distant future, so that’s what this is all about,” Clyburn said on “NewsNation Prime” on Sunday. “I want people to stop looking at this as being Democrats versus Republicans. No, this is democracy versus autocracy. That’s what this issue is.”

The first bill would create a national standard for voting, designate Election Day as a federal holiday and restore voting rights to the formerly incarcerated. The second piece of legislation would restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it harder for states to pass voting laws that disproportionately affect minorities.

Democrats have desperately tried to find a way to push the pair of bills through despite overwhelming opposition from the other side of the aisle.

“The Voting Rights Act is so far beyond the Voting Rights Act that … served the country well; it’s an election takeover,” said Sen Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

President Joe Biden spoke forcefully of the need to pass the legislation, likening the modern concerns over election subversion and increasing voting restrictions in states to the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. 

Biden last week said he supported changing Senate rules to allow the slim Democratic majority to push the package through, though he later acknowledged uncertainty it can pass Congress this year following objections from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

“We need some good rules changes and we can do that together, but you change your rules with two thirds of people that are present,” Manchin said. “So it is Democrats and Republicans changing the rules to make the place work better. Getting rid of the filibuster does not make it work better.”

Clyburn said he spoke with Manchin and he hopes the senator steps “outside of his comfort zone” to see the issue from a different perspective.

“The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution gave blacks the right to vote,” Clyburn said. “It was a straight party line vote. It was not a bipartisan vote.”

He says Manchin should be ashamed of himself.

“What he’s doing is joining with those Republicans who do not want to see people of color vote, because as they have said time and time again, you’ve seen the reports, ‘If too many of them vote, we can’t win,'” Clyburn said.

Clyburn said he had not spoken to Sinema as of Sunday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate will take up the voting rights legislation Tuesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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