In a conference call with journalists today, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) harshly derided GOP leadership before vowing to work with any black Republican congressman seeking to join the Congressional Black Caucus.
In a notably gloomy address, Clyburn warned of the Republicans’ Pledge to America, an ambitious legislative agenda for the next Congress that would, among other things, repeal health care reform. He said that if voters don’t support Democratic candidates on Election Day, all the work of the past 20 months could be lost. “Next year we may even get the public option or the single payer,” he said, referring to a fully subsidized government healthcare plan. “But we aren’t going to get there by sitting out this election and allowing people to get elected who have vowed to repeal all that we’ve done.”
Ending his speech, Clyburn said that the Democrats winning on Nov. 2 was “important to future generations.”
Also on the call was the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Xavier Becerra, who minced words even less than the outspoken Clyburn. “When you take a look at this Republican campaign pledge,” said Becerra, “it’s nothing better than a two-by-four wrapped around your head.”
OMB Watch, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to creating transparency in government, released a study today that supports Clyburn and Becerra’s claims. Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, says that, if enacted, the Pledge to America “would increase budget deficits, harm Americans still trying to recover from the recession, and bring work on crucial public protections to a grinding halt.”
Despite a difference of opinion, Clyburn added that he would welcome African-American Republicans into the Congressional Black Caucus should any win in November. Currently a handful of black Republicans are running for office, though it looks as if only South Carolina’s Tim Scott will win for sure. “Whoever comes to the Congress and wants to join up with the caucus, they need to make their intentions known,” said Clyburn. “And if Tim Scott is interested in joining the caucus, he would be welcome.”
The Congressional Black Caucus hasn’t had a Republican member since Rep. Gary Franks retired in 1997. Still, Clyburn said he was close to Franks and expects he can work with Scott in a similarly affable manner. “Whether our relationship will be a formal one or functional one,” he said, “all that would be up to Mr. Scott if he were successful on Nov. 2.”
–Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.