House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said Sunday that Democrats will continue to fight for a pair of election bills that have stalled in the Senate, where key centrists are unwilling to blow up the filibuster in the equally divided chamber.
The bills passed the House, but Democratic senses Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia oppose the weakening of the rules that require a 60-vote threshold to end debate and move bills forward.
Asked if he thought ballot measures were dead, Mr Clyburn replied: ‘No, I don’t think so.
“They may be on life support,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We don’t give up.”
President Biden met with Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin last week, but neither seemed ready to drop their opposition to the weakening of the filibuster, warning that Democrats will need the power to block s they return to the minority.
Mr Clyburn, appearing on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’, said Democrats may have to go back to the drawing board and come up with measures some Republicans can support. But he wants the Senate to try to advance existing bills even if it highlights Democratic disunity.
“When people tell me they are for this legislation, but they are against the processes we need to get the legislation, then I don’t think you are on the right side of history. So we have to fight. We need to have those votes. We have to see which side people are on,” Mr Clyburn said.
Ms. Sinema’s speech against changing the rules enraged liberal activists, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to taunt her and Mr. Manchin by repeating the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s warnings about white moderates.
Mr Clyburn did not urge Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona, to issue a main challenge against Ms Sinema in 2024, but sang his praises.
“We’ll see what happens. He’s a good guy,” he said of Mr Gallego.
Democrats say their voting bills are needed to undo a series of election integrity measures that have been passed in GOP-led states since 2020.
The Free Voting Act would require states to offer same-day voter registration, make Election Day a holiday, and mandate 15 days of early voting. It would also require universal mail-in voting, create a taxpayer-backed public funding system for House elections, and impose new restrictions on states’ ability to draw their electoral districts.
The John Lewis Voting Act would grant the Justice Department sweeping new powers to oversee state elections. In some cases, according to the bill, states would even have to get DOJ approval before implementing new election laws.
Mr Biden spoke in favor of the bills in a fiery speech in Atlanta ahead of the MLK Day holiday that enraged Republicans.
“I would ask these people, what do you think is going too far? Is it the criminalization of giving someone a bottle of water while they are waiting in line to vote?” Mr. Clyburn said, referring to one of the state restrictions Democrats oppose.
“If we don’t protect the vote with everything we have, we won’t have a country to protect,” Mr Clyburn said. “It’s Third World stuff, and we better be careful.”
Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, said Mr Clyburn’s comments on water restrictions were misleading and Mr Biden had failed to deliver on his promise to create unity.
Mr Cassidy said some blue states had more restrictive election laws than the new rules in red states and that things like drop boxes were supposed to be unique in 2020 because of the coronavirus.
“Pandemic accommodations will continue into the future when the pandemic is theoretically over,” Cassidy told CNN.
• Haris Alic contributed to this report.