By GINA SMITH
South Carolina lost lots of national political clout when longtime U.S. Rep. John Spratt was defeated earlier this month, said U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.
“We’ll go from being one of the strongest delegations with me and Spratt to being farther down the totem pole,” said Clyburn, who will lose his position as majority whip in January when Republicans take control of the U.S. House. .
Clyburn, now the only Democrat in South Carolina’s six-member delegation, said he’s hoping his new leadership position will allow him to help more South Carolinians and, ultimately, bring the Democrats back to power in the U.S. House.
Clyburn’s colleagues voted Wednesday to create a tailor-made position for him and then elected him to fill it when the new session starts.
“I think it puts me in a very unique position to help the state of South Carolina,” Clyburn said of his new post as assistant Democratic leader, in which he will serve as Democratic leader’s liaison for the appropriations process.
In his new capacity, Clyburn said he’ll be more vocal, speaking out on more issues and spending more time explaining to regular people what Democrats are up to and why.
“It’s going out and saying to people, ‘This is what we’re doing. This is why we did it,’ ” Clyburn said. “I wasn’t doing that before.”
Those topics will include finding funds to deepen the ports in Charleston and Georgetown, extending middle-class tax cuts, letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire and defending health care reform.
Clyburn was elusive on whether a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate will get much accomplished.
“You can’t keep moving the goal post and that’s what Republicans did to this president time and time again,” Clyburn said.
But he did extend the olive branch to one Republican, newly elected U.S. Rep. Tim Scott of Charleston.
Clyburn said he hopes Scott, who is a black Republican, will join the left-leaning Black Caucus. Scott has said he is unlikely to do so.
“Come join the Black Caucus,” Clyburn said. “Let us have the benefit of your input. Maybe we can learn something from you. Maybe you can learn something from us.”
Scott and Allen West of Florida are the first two black Republicans to serve in Congress since J.C. Watts, who refused to join the caucus, and the first black GOP members from the Deep South since Reconstruction.