House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said Sunday that he “absolutely” could support a proposed national voter ID requirement offered last month by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), despite Clyburn previously calling voter ID laws a form of “voter suppression.”
“When I first registered to vote as a 21-year-old — back then, 18-year-olds could not vote — I got a voter registration card, and I always present that voter registration card when I go to vote, and that is voter ID,” Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat, told CNN’s “State of the Union”.
“We are always for voter ID. We are never for disproportionate voter ID,” Clyburn added. “When you tell me that you got to have a photo ID, and a photo for a [college] student for an activity card is not good, but for a hunting license it is good, that’s where the rub is.”
Manchin initially offered his compromise last month as one of a series of proposed changes to the For The People Act, the massive federal election reform measure that passed the House of Representatives along party lines in March. Senate Republicans used the legislative filibuster to defeat the legislation last month, but congressional Democrats and the Biden White House have promised to revisit the issue.
The Manchin proposal would mandate that states check for some form of ID, but allow election officials to accept documents like a utility bill as proof of identification. Currently 15 states have adopted that requirement, including Manchin’s home state of West Virginia. The compromise was endorsed by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams — a key Democratic spokesperson on election law — but rejected by Senate Republicans who insist on photo ID requirements.
Clyburn described that requirement to CNN host Dana Bash as “inequitable”.
“If you’re 94 years old, you don’t drive anymore, but you’re still watching the news every day, and you want to keep up, you want to vote, and you don’t have a photo ID, then you ought to be able to vote with whatever ID that you have,” he said. “One being your voter registration card.”
Despite Clyburn professing to support some kind of voter ID requirement Sunday, he tweeted in October 2020 that “[l]ong voting lines”, “[c]losed polling locations” and “[v]oter ID laws” were “all voter suppression.”
As recently as April of this year, Clyburn said he was “insulted” by Manchin’s effort to hammer out a bipartisan compromise on election reform issues.
“I’m insulted when he tells me that it’s more important to maintain a relationship with the minority in the US Senate than it is for you to maintain a relationship with the minority of voters in America,” he told HuffPost at the time. “That’s insulting to me.”
Clyburn insisted Sunday that the Senate should “get rid of the filibuster for constitutional issues, just as we have done for budget issues.”
“We ought not be filibustering things like people’s voting rights, because what we have done with the modern-day filibuster, we will allow a senator to sit downtown in a spa somewhere, pick up the telephone and call in the filibuster, and effectively stop voting rights and other constitutional rights while sitting in a spa somewhere, won’t even come to the floor to argue his or her position,” he claimed. “That’s what is wrong with this filibuster, and that’s what they have done to it.”
“I’m not against the filibuster, but you ought not be filibustering — nobody should filibuster anybody’s constitutional right,” Clyburn later added. “We have done it for the budget under reconciliation. And reconciliation is a much better word to apply to constitutional issues than it is to the budget.”
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