U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn told about 200 people in Sumter Thursday that Americans “are going to be OK.”
Amid questions from audience members about health care and climate change, Russia and impeachment, the lone Democrat in South Carolina’s congressional delegation assured those attending that the United States still can move forward, if unevenly.
Pulling back to take the long view of history, the Columbia Democrat said “the country swings from the left to the right every eight years” since the president has been limited to two terms in office, with the exception of one-term presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.
Now, since the election of Republican President Donald Trump, “The pendulum is moving back to the left,” Clyburn said.
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Clyburn spent much of his opening remarks talking about the Affordable Care Act and ongoing Republican efforts to repeal the bill. Clyburn compared the health-care bill to the Civil Rights Act, which, he said, omitted some protections — for areas like housing — that had to be addressed later.
“We knew we weren’t passing a perfect law” in 2010 when Obamacare was passed, Clyburn said of Congress. But it was a way to “get started ... so everybody can have access.”
Efforts to repeal the law — without a substantive plan to replace it — are “crazy talk,” the Democrat said.
Speaking on the same day that President Trump announced plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement — a move Clyburn opposes — the congressman said the move reminded him of the health-care debate. “It’s repeal without anything to replace it with.”
Recent revelations about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and possible connections to Trump’s campaign led some to ask if it is time for impeachment hearings, something Clyburn wasn’t ready to commit to. The House’s third-ranking Democrat noted then-President Richard Nixon resigned long after the Watergate break-in, only after he lost the support of fellow Republicans, convinced by the mounting evidence against him.
“You can’t go straight from A to D,” Clyburn said. “You have to go through A, B, C and D.”
That might take too long for some. When one Democrat in the audience said she gets discouraged, Clyburn reminisced about being arrested during the civil rights movement.
“Some on the other side want you to give up, to feel overwhelmed,” he said. “I believe if we stay in this fight, we’re going to be fine.”