Persistence, Cooperation Have Paid Off for Clyburn
Piacente, Washington Correspondent
The Charleston Post and Courier, Sunday, February 14, 1999, page
- If it were possible, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn would have muzzled
former colleague Bob Inglis last year during debate on a multi-billion
dollar roads bill.
Inglis had grown adept at tossing around acid phrases to show
his displeasure with the legislation, referring to key lawmakers
as "big hogs feeding at the trough," and arguing that
the bill "oozed with pork."
Clyburn was on the key transportation panel handling the measure,
and felt such talk was not only unproductive, but bound to hurt
South Carolina, one of several states that paid far more in federal
gasoline taxes than it received back in highway funds.
philosophy, one that has remained consistent since he became the
state's first black congressman since Reconstruction, told him
to work quietly with the panel chairman, to "make headway,
off. Clyburn wound up on the all-important conference committee
that banged out differences between House and Senate versions
of the bill, helped win a better gas tax return for the state,
and won much of what he was seeking for various projects in the
6th Congressional District.
year, Clyburn was awarded a coveted seat on the House Appropriations
Committee, where it is presumed he will be able to do even more
to steer federal funds back home. The assignment was announced
shortly after the four-term lawmaker won an unopposed race for
chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
succeeded Rep. Maxine Waters, a California liberal known as one
of the toughest-talking Democrats on Capitol Hill. Waters' South
Central Los Angeles district is poor, heavily minority, and was
the site of violent riots in 1992.
stewardship of the caucus has already peeled away some of his
more conciliatory leanings and revealed more of what people saw
when he took on the Christian Coalition a few years back.
Last week, for instance, the caucus held a summit on its priorities,
one of which will be to get a black judge seated on the 4th Circuit
Court of Appeals for the first time in history.
said one of the major obstacles has been conservative Sen. Jesse
Helms, and vowed to fight the North Carolina Republican's ongoing
effort to keep the court "lily white."
weeks ago, Clyburn's target was the "racism and bigotry espoused"
by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a controversial group
based in St. Louis. Though his resolution of condemnation was
aimed at the council, Clyburn said his real battle was with Republican
leaders who have created an atmosphere in Washington that has
allowed the re-emergence of white supremacist groups.
happened before, he noted pointedly, observing, "The Klan
never could have flourished without the tacit support of the powers
of this is interesting because Clyburn is considered to have appeal
that extends beyond the black-majority 6th District. He does not
discourage speculation that he might run for statewide office,
perhaps the U.S. Senate, sometime down the road.
turn toward the Maxine Waters style of lawmaking would not help
his chances in South Carolina, where Clyburn still is known as
someone who works hard to disagree without being disagreeable.
philosophy was probably learned at home, but the reputation was
forged during his long tenure (1974-1992) as S.C. Human Affairs
Commissioner, and as a teacher in Charleston, and as an employment
counselor and director of two youth and community development
final defining issue of this period in Clyburn's career has been
his steadfast defense of President Clinton during the long impeachment
process. If his support eventually hurts him in a state where
the S.C. GOP says Clinton has the approval rating of a convicted
felon, Clyburn says so be it.
might come into play," he said. "I don't care if anybody
wants to vote against me because of my support for the president.
I think what I've been able to do for my district and my state
has been made possible in large part because of my close relationship
with this president and vice president."