The third-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Jim Clyburn, tore into Republicans for opposing a minimum-wage boost, saying their threatened used of the filibuster in the Senate to stop it reminded him of when the filibuster was deployed against civil-rights legislation.
“You see that our Republican colleagues are now adhering to the political philosophies that are a throwback to the 1940s and 1950s. And they’re using the filibuster to deny progress, basically, to low-income people,” Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, said at a press conference Tuesday ahead of a party policy gathering.
“And if they’re going to use the filibuster to deny a minimum-wage increase, it would be tantamount to using it deny civil rights,” he said. “That, to me, is what we’re going to be talking about going forward.”
The debate within the Democratic Party over whether to scrap the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to end debate on a bill so it can go to a final vote, flared up again after the Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled against Democrats’ proposal to boost the minimum wage gradually to $15 by 2025. The proposal would have violated a Senate rule governing what can be in fast-track budget bills that can pass the Senate with only 51 votes, she found.
The wage boost was put in the bill only because it was assumed it could not garner by itself the needed 10 Republican votes to advance in a regular bill. But if Democrats scrapped the filibuster, as was done for executive nominations by Sen. Mitch McConnell when Republicans controlled the Senate, it would allow for a minimum-wage hike and other big party priorities to pass with 51 votes. Republicans have warned they oppose getting rid of the filibuster and Democrats would regret the move the next time they are in the minority.
Clyburn, the party whip, is the only Black lawmaker in a long-running Democratic triumvirate that has led the House Democrats since 2007, along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
He was prominent in 2000 during the Democratic presidential primaries. His endorsement of Joe Biden, who had limped through the first few states, was seen as pivotal in helping turn the Biden campaign around.
Opponents of the filibuster have long pointed to its use against civil-rights legislation as one of the reasons it is illegitimate and should be eliminated. Clyburn called back to his own history, when he was arrested in South Carolina for participating in a protest to desegregate lunch counters.
“Nobody thought that one of those little 20-year-olds arrested on that day would be standing here today,” he said.
“We’re not going to just give in to these arcane methods of denying progress. This party is not going to do it, and if [Republicans] want to be characterized that way, we will oblige them,” he said. “I tell you, I will not be quiet on this issue. People of color will not be quiet on this issue.”