Jim Clyburn - U.S. House of Representatives - Tenure

Tenure

Jim Clyburn was elected as vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in 2003, the third-ranking post in the caucus.

He became the chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the House in early 2006 after the caucus chairman Bob Menendez was appointed to the Senate. After the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in the 2006 election, Clyburn was unanimously elected as Majority Whip in the 110th Congress.

Clyburn would have faced a challenge from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel, but Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi persuaded Emanuel to run for Democratic Caucus Chairman. Clyburn was interviewed by National Public Radio's Morning Edition on January 12, 2007, and acknowledged the difficulty of counting votes and rallying the fractious Democratic caucus, while his party held the majority in the House.

After the 2010 elections, the Democrats lost their majority in the House. The departing Speaker Nancy Pelosi ran for the Minority Leader position in order to remain the House party leader, while Clyburn announced that he would challenge Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House and the outgoing Majority Leader, for the Minority Whip post. Clyburn had the support of the Congressional Black Caucus, which wanted to keep an African-American in the House leadership, while Hoyer had 35 public endorsements, including three standing committee chairs. On November 13, Pelosi announced a deal whereby Hoyer would stand as Minority Whip, while a "number three" leadership position styled Assistant Leader would be created for Clyburn. The exact responsibilities of Clyburn's assistant leader office remain unclear, though it is said to replace the Assistant to the Leader post previously held by Chris Van Hollen. He had attended all leadership meetings but was not in the leadership hierarchy.

Ideology

Clyburn is regarded as liberal in his political stances, actions and votes. A recent ranking by the National Journal ranked him as the 77th most liberal of all 435 US congressional representatives, and with a score of 81, indicating that the conductors of this study found his voting record to be more liberal than 81 percent of other members of the US House of Representatives based on their recent voting records.

Clyburn has an established liberal stance on health care, education, organized labor and environmental conservation issues, based on his legislative actions as well as evaluations and ratings by pertinent interest groups.

Healthcare

In 2009, Clyburn introduced the Access for All Americans Act. The $26 billion sought by this Act would provide funding to quadruple the number of community health centers in the US that provide medical care to uninsured and low-income citizens.

The American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, The Children’s Health Fund and other health care interest groups rate Clyburn highly based on his voting record on pertinent issues. Other groups in this field, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, give Clyburn ratings of zero.

Despite his opposition to partial-birth abortion, Clyburn is regarded to be pro-choice on the issue of abortion, as shown by his high ratings from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, and low rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

Education

Clyburn has continuously sought new and additional funding for education. He has gained additional funding for special education and lower interest rates on federal student loans. In many sessions has Clyburn sought, sponsored and/or voted for improvements in Pell Grant funding for college loans.

The National Education Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals rate Clyburn very high, as do other education interest groups.

Ports

Although he was criticized for a previous expenditure of 160 million dollars to expand South Carolina's ports, he stated he would continue to make funding available for further expansions. The plan is to deepen the ports to allow for larger commercial ships to arrive from the Panama Canal which is currently being expanded to allow for larger ships to pass through. This is due primarily because of larger commercial ships coming from China, and also China's extremely high demand of soy beans, which are produced in South Carolina, but must be sent to larger ports for exporting. This measure will benefit South Carolina business and farmers and is thus heavily backed by these groups.

Labor

Clyburn has consistently voted for increases in minimum wage income and to restrict employer interference with labor union organization.

Many national labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, the United Auto Workers, the Communication Workers Association and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, give Clyburn outstanding ratings based on his voting record on issues that pertain to labor and employment.

Environment

Clyburn has opposed legislation to increase offshore drilling for oil or natural gas. Instead, he has promoted use of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, cheaper than wind and solar energy. Members of the nuclear power industry have expressed that there is a mutual respect between Clyburn and themselves. Clyburn pushed for a 2010 contract to convert plutonium from old weapons into nuclear fuel.

Clyburn has continuously been viewed favorably by organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters and Defenders of Wildlife.

War in Iraq

On July 31, 2007, Clyburn said in a broadcast interview that it would be a "real big problem" for the Democratic Party if General David Petraeus issued a positive report in September, as it would split the Democratic caucus on whether to continue to fund the Iraq War. While this soundbite caused some controversy, the full quote was, in reference to 47 member Blue Dog caucus, "I think there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course and if the Republicans were to stay united as they have been, then it would be a problem for us."

Bill Clinton comments

Clyburn negatively viewed Bill Clinton's remarks regarding Barack Obama winning the South Carolina primary. Clinton had compared Obama's victory to Rev. Jesse Jackson's win in the 1988 primary election. "Black people are incensed all over this," said Clyburn. Clinton responded that the campaign "played the race card on me," denying any racial tone in the comment. Speaking with the New York Times, Clyburn said such actions could lead to a longtime division between the former president and his once most reliable constituency. "When he was going through his impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the bar," Clyburn said. "I think black folks feel strongly that this is a strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation."

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