HARTFORD — The third-ranking majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives told state Democrats on Sunday night that the current Congress has accomplished some of the most important legislation in seven decades, thanks to Connecticut’s congressional delegation.
But in a 32-minute cheerleading speech before 600 people in the Connecticut Convention Center, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn of South Carolina stressed the importance of next month’s election at a time when democracy is being threatened and Republicans have plans to defund major social-spending programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“You go through the production of this Congress and you go back and look at every previous Congress, you will go back to 1965 before you see a Congress that has been productive as this Congress,” Clyburn said. “You look at Franklin Roosevelt, well, you say he gave us the New Deal. Yep. Harry Truman gave us the Fair Deal. Yep. Lyndon Johnson gave us the Great Society, but Joe Biden has given us the Great Recovery. We are on the rebound because this state has sent great leaders to represent you in Washington.”
“Some elections are more consequential than others and in my time I don’t think we have ever faced a more consequential election than the one we’re about to face,” said Clyburn, a 30-year congressional veteran, said from the stage at the annual John M. Bailey Dinner , named for the late longtime Democratic National Committee chairman. Clyburn warned that the election “could very well determine whether or not this march toward a more-perfect union continues or whether it comes to a screeching halt. That what it is all about.”
Quoting the 19th century French diplomat and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville, who traveled around the United States nearly 200 years ago in search of what Clyburn called “magic,” he said the nation’s “goodness” is now at stake. “We have got to make sure that we understand that that is what this whole pursuit is all about: If we do not maintain our goodness, we will lose our greatness and that is is simple as I can put it.”
Clyburn, whose job is to make sure there are enough votes to pass bills, charged that Republicans led by former President Donald Trump, first responded poorly to the COVID-19 pandemic, then worked to undermine attempts by President Joe Biden to revive the economy through the American Recovery Plan Act, which passed without Republican support, within two months of Biden’s inauguration.
“COVID-19 opened up some fault lines in America,” said Clyburn, who is chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronviris Crisis. He referred to the former presidential administration without naming Trump. “We needed leadership,” Clyburn said. “All we got was a bunch of foolishness. ‘You could get well with Clorox i n your veins.’ What kind of leadership was that? This country was looking for somebody to lead it out of that pandemic, and the public decided that we were not going to get it from 45, and they went to the polls in 2020.”
Clyburn praised 3rd District U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro for finally succeeding in getting child tax credits passed, helping hundreds of thousands of kids. “Rosa had been fighting that battle for years,” he said. “We had to do something to lift those children out of poverty and she saw an opportunity with the Rescue Plan to put that in there and we did put that in there and we helped lift those children out of poverty. And that’s leadership.”
He predicted that second-term 5th District U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, who introduced Clyburn to the audience and has been targeted by national Republicans, will win reelection.
Clyburn, who is also chairman of the House’s Rural Broadband Task Force, credited 1st District U.S. Rep. John Larson with giving him the nickname “Jim Broadband,” for his advocacy in including the expansion of Internet connectivity into the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure legislation. He recalled that initial Republican criticism centered around claims that a “traditional” bill was a better idea.
“But I’m from the south and I knew what tradition meant,” Clyburn quipped. This year’s Inflation Reduction Act will lower health care and prescription drug costs for the elderly, allowing for the first time the negotiation of drug prices, for which he also credited Larson. A cap on insulin costs at $35 a month was another major legislative victory, he said.
He warned that Republicans who are fighting to regain the U.S. House and Senate, want to “sunset” Social Security within five years, as well as Medicare, Medicaid and “all of those things they call wasteful spending. Can you imagine? People spend all of their lives paying into Social Security; paying into Medicare. And then all of a sudden they’re saying after five years it’s no longer there for you. We need to follow John Larson’s lead and make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years.”
In response state Republican Chairman Ben Proto said it was “no shock” in terms of hearing what was said by Clyburn, asking whether the congressman mention rising inflation and mortgage rates, a struggling stock market and Connecticut’s GDP – the second worst in the country during the second quarter.
“Yup, the CT Dems are just kicking it,” Proto said. “Unfortunately, they are kicking the (people) of CT when they are down and destroying our future.”
[email protected] Twitter: @KenDixonCT
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