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Clyburn vows fight on voting rights reform that 'may be on life support'

"I don't think you're on the right side of history," House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said of his colleagues who are against changing Senate rules.

WASHINGTON — As the Senate prepares to take up voting legislation this week, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., emphasized Sunday that congressional Democrats won't turn their backs on the fight even though major obstacles have paved a "bleak" path to election reform.

"We're not giving up," Clyburn said on CNN's "State of the Union." "We're going to fight, and we plan to win, because people of goodwill are going to break their silence and help us win this battle."

The measures "may be on life support, but, you know, John Lewis and others did not give up after the '64 Civil Rights Act. That's why he got the '65 Voting Rights Act," he said.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., made it clear last week that she won't vote to gut the filibuster rule to ease passage of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which means the Senate will miss its self-imposed deadline of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to vote on both bills.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday that the Senate wouldn't take up the legislation until Tuesday, citing "the circumstances regarding Covid and another potentially hazardous winter storm" approaching Washington.

Sinema said she supports the two bills but continues to favor the 60-vote rule, which Democrats have no hope of clearing because of overwhelming Republican opposition to the bills. Her remarks signaled that Democrats' aggressive efforts to persuade her to support changing the rules had failed.

"People tell me they are for this legislation, but they're against the processes that we need in order to get the legislation," Clyburn said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Then, I don't think you're on the right side of history."

"It may look bleak now, but we are going to keep pressing. We are not going to give in on this," he said.

Following Sinema's comments, President Joe Biden expressed uncertainty Thursday over whether Democrats would be able to pass voting rights legislation after he emerged from a closed-door luncheon with Senate Democrats.

"I hope we can get this done, but I'm not sure," Biden told reporters on Capitol Hill after the meeting. "The honest to God answer is I don't know whether we can get this done.

"If we miss the first time, we can come back and try it a second time. We missed this time. We missed this time," he said.

The House voted 220-203 along party lines last week to pass the two bills in one package. The Senate will receive it as a "message," enabling Democrats to open debate with a simple majority.

But they're guaranteed to hit a roadblock when they need 60 votes to break a filibuster and end debate in the 50-50 Senate. The Freedom to Vote Act has no Republican support. The John Lewis bill has one GOP backer: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.