Transcript: Rep. James Clyburn on “Face the Nation,” November 27, 2022

The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina that aired on Face the Nation on Sunday, November 27, 2022.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Right now, I want to speak to House Majority Whip, Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn, who is joining us this morning from Santee, South Carolina. Congressman, it’s good to have you on the agenda. I want to start with what happened in the last two weeks, we had these three mass shootings. In June, you helped push through this bipartisan investment in propping up red flag laws and background checks, a $13 billion expansion. And yet both gun buyers in Virginia allegedly bought their guns legally, as did the one in Colorado, what does that tell you about the effectiveness of the federal law?

REP. JIM CLYBURN: Well, thank you for inviting me. It tells me everything I need to know. And just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right. I tell people all the time that the institution of slavery was legal, but it wasn’t right. Just because they bought these guns legally doesn’t mean that’s how the law should be, we need to change those laws. Unfortunately, on Wednesday I will be here in my district speaking at the memorial service for one of these young University of Virginia football players who died by the hand of what appears to be a legally acquired weapon. That is not the problem. Chesapeake, Virginia, this gun was legally purchased on the morning of the event. We must review these laws and do whatever is necessary to keep these guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. And that’s exactly what we need to do in this lame duck session. And that is non-partisan. Let’s protect the American people from people with dementia and make sure we give people some peace of mind as they shop when they’re in churches.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. Well, what about that lame duck session because Democrats are in control for a few more weeks. President Biden came out and said he wants to introduce a ban on assault weapons. An AR-15 style assault weapon was used in Colorado but not in those two Virginia shootings. So the problem is that kind of weapon, and if that’s the solution you’re proposing, how do you get 60 votes in the Senate?

REP. CLYBURN: Well, I don’t know how you get 60 votes in the Senate. And that’s why I always object to the fact that we don’t control the Senate. It’s 50/50 in the Senate. And that’s a problem for us. We need to sit down bipartisanally and say, what can we do to protect the public? Nobody wants to take someone’s guns away. Your second amendment is designed to protect everyone. But so is the first change, but there is no unrestricted-

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what are you going to do in the lame duck? You just said in the lame duck you gotta act? What does that mean? What will the Democrats do?

REP. CLYBURN: Well, we’ve already handed over the bills around the house. We’re trying to get the Senate to act. We did this on the house side. So that’s the problem. The Democrats control the House of Representatives and we passed the law. We don’t control the Senate. And that’s where the filibuster causes this problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And in the new Congress after January, is the prospect of any kind of gun reform dead upon arrival, or can you pick up some votes from Kevin McCarthy’s faction here to make a difference when the Democrats are in the minority?

REP. CLYBURN: Well, you know, if you look at the results of the election, you go to California, you go to New York, even two counties in North Carolina, when we got seats, we got a more moderate electorate coming in. And we must appeal to a sense of basic fairness and what is right. I have no idea if they will (unintelligible) do what Republicans seem to control, but we will try.

MARGARET BRENNAN: White House Advisor Anita Dunn was on this program a few weeks ago, and she said over the next few weeks while the Democrats have the majority, the number one priority is to keep the government funded. What exactly is your top priority? I mean, what can the Democrats do before the Republicans take control?

REP. CLYBURN: Well I agree with Anita Dunn, keeping the government funded and open is always the top priority –

MARGARET BRENNAN: That seems to be the absolute minimum.

REP. CLYBURN: Absolutely the bare minimum, but we have to go further. We need to look at the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act. I can’t get away from that. I believe we need to do something about the Electoral College Reform Act. These two things are fundamental to our democracy. And we need to keep them front and center. Yes, keep the government open, but let’s also protect fundamental rights. And that would be one and two for me and these gun safety laws would be right after that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats are holding leadership elections next week, you’re already in the lead, I know you’re going to run for another position. But if it’s time for a new generation, as Speaker Pelosi said, why do you think it’s necessary for you to remain in power? Do you think the next generation needs you to lead them?

REP. CLYBURN: Well, I’ve always said there’s a healthy respect, it’s biblical to me. We must have a healthy mix of strength and knowledge and look to our leadership. The South is left out, and what I’m doing is making sure we don’t tilt too far east or too far west. But keep what we have here. There is no other Southerner in the senior ranks and we need the South. We need these historically black colleges and universities. If it wasn’t for Georgia, where would the Senate be today? And last time I checked, Georgia is south of South Carolina.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thank you, Mr. Whip, for joining us today.

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