Clyburn says Senate filibuster denies civil rights: ‘People of color will not be quiet on this issue’

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Rep. Jim Clyburn, a powerful House Democrat from South Carolina, lashed out against the Senate filibuster Tuesday as an obstacle to civil rights and said people of color will not stand by and let archaic rules deny progress on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

“I will not be quiet on this issue,” Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, said Tuesday of changing the filibuster. “People of color will not be quiet on this issue.”

Clyburn, who has a long history of civil rights activism, said the Senate standard that requires 60 votes for most legislation to advance needs to be changed. He harkened back to segregationists using the filibuster to block civil rights legislation decades ago and said he won’t stand by and let Republicans today block progress to giving people a living wage. 


“If they are going to use the filibuster to deny the minimum wage increase it will be tantamount to using it to deny civil rights,” Clyburn said at a Capitol news conference.

” … We’re not going to just give in to these archaic methods of denying progress.”

His comments come as more Democrats have brought race into the issue of abolishing the filibuster. Currently, the Senate is split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote on certain key measures that require a simple majority. But raising the minimum wage would require 60 votes to advance since the Senate parliamentarian recently ruled the Senate can’t use budget reconciliation — which requires a simple majority — to pass the Democrats’ $15 wage proposal.


House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., also said Tuesday the filibuster must be changed  and noted it’s traditionally been used to “undermine the rights of citizens of color in America.” Former President Barack Obama previously called the filibuster a “Jim Crow relic” that should be eliminated to pass civil rights and voting rights legislation. 

Clyburn, 80 and a founding member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), said changing the filibuster is personal. 

“We are not going to allow the filibuster that was used to deny me and people who look like me the opportunity to come to this Congress — and that’s what they did,” Clyburn said. “And they’re not going to deny the opportunity for people to make a decent living above the poverty wage.”

Clyburn continued: “If that’s what they’re going to do, they are going to have to live with it because we’re going to make sure that we serve it up.”


But even if Senate Democrats wanted to change the filibuster they currently don’t have the votes. Moderate Democrats Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have opposed eliminating the filibuster, denying Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer the votes needed. 

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