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Yahoo Finance Presents: Congressman Jim Clyburn

South Carolina’s Democratic Representative Jim Clyburn sat down with Yahoo Finance’s Sibile Marcellus to discuss the latest news on coronavirus stimulus, what newly sworn in President Joe Biden can do for the United States, and the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on systemic racism.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Welcome to "Yahoo Finance Presents." I'm Sibile Marcellus. My guest today is Congressman Jim Clyburn.

As House majority whip, he's the third highest ranking Democrat in Congress. He's also one of the Democratic caucus' primary liasons to the White House. Congressman Jim Clyburn, it's great to have you on.

JIM CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Congressman, if it wasn't for you, we could be going through President Trump's second term. So are you the country's savior? And is that what former President Bush told you at President Biden's inauguration?

JIM CLYBURN: Yeah, he did say that to me at the inauguration. But, you know, I thought he was just repeating some of the stuff that had been floating around for a while. In fact, there were t-shirts out there with my image on it using that term, the savior of our democracy.

So I just kind of thought that he was just mouthing that, that had picked up from somewhere else. But, yeah, he said it. And we joked about it. But he and I have had that kind of relationship over the years.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Congressman, you're also chairman of the House select subcommittee on coronavirus crisis. Where is that $1.9 trillion fiscal plan President Biden promised us? What's holding it back?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, what's holding it back is that President Biden made it very clear in his campaign that he would make every attempt to represent those who voted for him as well as those who voted against him. And that he would do so by trying to sort of serve in a bipartisan way. That's what he's doing. He laid out a $1.9 trillion program. The Republicans have come up with a $600 billion program.

But they've got to know that that comes nowhere near what the president thinks needs to be done. One example is there's zero money that they are proposing for state or local governments. We need help. They've got, what, about $20 billion for kids to go back to school. We got $150 billion to put kids back in school because we think we need to clean up these HVAC systems.

We can't send them back to school unless we make the schools safe for them to go to. The teachers and the students and the administrators deserve that. So that's why we're so far apart because we are doing what over 75% of the American people things need to be done. The Republicans are playing politics.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Is the $1.9 trillion fiscal plan price tag big enough? Or should it be even bigger than that?

JIM CLYBURN: It should be bigger than that in the long run. That's enough to rescue this economy. We're going to have to stimulate the economy later on. And I think we'll hear from the president in his State of the Union address what he proposes to stimulate the economy. So when you're just trying to get people back in school, there's nothing stimulative about that.

You're trying to get-- keep cities and county governments open. That's not to stimulate. We'll talk about infrastructure programs, health care programs, broadband, all that kind of stuff. That's to stimulate. And that will come later.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And when can Americans expect to get those $1,400 stimulus checks? By what date?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, I don't know about the date. It would be within a week after we pass the bill.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: OK, a week, that sounds promising.

JIM CLYBURN: After we pass the bill.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Absolutely.

JIM CLYBURN: [LAUGHS]

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Well, President Biden included raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour in that $1.9 trillion fiscal plan. Now, if you Democrats are able to make that law, what's your message to businesses or corporations that didn't necessarily want to pay workers a living wage, but, yet, gladly accepted those tax breaks?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, we will say to them what needs to be said to them, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. They used the reconciliation process. They give $1 trillion-- over $1 trillion in tax breaks to wealthy people.

And they're bemoaning us using the reconciliation process to give people a $15 an hour minimum wage. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. And I will talk about them every chance I get.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And as majority whip, how difficult is it to keep the Democrats' caucus together? Do you ever feel like you're getting lectured by younger members, like, for instance, AOC, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? What do you think she still needs to learn about the way Congress works? I mean, you've got more than 20 years of experience and she's just 31 years old.

JIM CLYBURN: Well, I think when people come in, they represent their constituents as best they know how. They'll get used to it. I remember when I got here, there are some things-- the very first bill I introduced was called a livable wage.

It was seven or eight years before that bill became law. So you do what you think is best. And you learn the process as time goes on.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And on the subject of President Biden's talk of unifying the country, wouldn't President Trump's impeachment trial, starting that, divide the country further into partisan camps and also delay that $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, you know, I don't know. Look at where we are today. Look at the country today. 74 million people voted for Trump. Now, 81 million or 82 maybe voted for Biden.

The Senate, 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans, that sounds like a divided government to me. So the government is divided. And it was divided that way on November 3 before we passed this impeachment resolution.

So, no, this is not going to divide the country. It does have an opportunity to bring the country together because what we've got to do is demonstrate in this trial that this is all about preserving this democracy. This is the real savior of our democracy, impeaching this president.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And is impeaching a president who's left office even constitutional? Why not just leave it up to the voters to make the right decision at the next election?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, you never know what's constitutional until the Supreme Court decides what's constitutional. Segregated schools, were constitutional until 1954 when the Supreme Court said they weren't. So we don't know what's constitutional or not.

It's never been done before. So we do it. And the Supreme Court can take a look at it. And we'll find out whether or not it's constitutional.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And are President Biden and other Democrats taking the Black vote for granted? Because, let's remember, it was President Biden during the campaign who said that if you can't decide between him and Trump, then you ain't Black.

JIM CLYBURN: Well, he was being a bit flippant with that. He apologized later for having said that. We all do things and say things sometimes that we decide later, we probably should not have said. The fact of the matter is I know a lot of black people who are Black and voted for Trump.

I don't think they're-- they're Black people without good judgment, in my mind. But they're Black just the same. So I think that what we have is a difference of opinion. And so we'll all do what we think is best and we'll move on till the next act comes along.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: House prosecutors have said that President Trump is singularly responsible for the assault on the Capitol. Not surprisingly, President Trump's lawyers say that he did not incite the violence. Now, you've said that it was possibly an insider job. So do you believe that someone connected to Trump was directing people to your unmarked office?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, I don't know if anybody connected to Trump is doing it. But I think there are people connected to these-- these mob-- this mob activity that took place. I do believe there was complacency. And I've said so. And I think that there's going to be, at some point in time, what we call a 9/11 type commission that's going to study this issue.

And I think it'll all come to light. It's very clear to me that there were people serving in this Congress who may have been sharing information with people who attacked this place several weeks ago. We'll see when the investigations are done.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Absolutely. And I wanted to touch on Black History Month. So have the George Floyd protests changed how corporate America addresses systemic racism? And what grade would you give Biden so far in terms of addressing systemic racism in the country?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, I think the George Floyd incident, his murder, awakened a lot of people. You know, it's one thing to talk about these things in the abstract. It's one thing to hear about them. But when you see it, you witness it-- and people saw what happened to George Floyd, and it awakened a lot of people. And I want do believe that people have begun to react.

I've heard people say since the election that I'm seeing things and I'm hearing things I just did not think existed. And they're thinking different-- you know, differently now about these things. So, yes, I think corporate America is responding in a way they never responded before. And that's as it should be.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And as a high profile lawmaker, are there still things that happened to you day-to-day that you attribute to racism? And how have you overcome that obstacle to have a successful career?

JIM CLYBURN: Well, you know, as a child growing up, little things that used to be said, I call them little adages. Mom-- the moms used to tell me all the time, if you wait until you can see your way clear to doing a thing, you'll never get anything done. That's what taught me how to strike out on fate. My father was a minister. He would go to scripture and say faith, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.

So I grew up with these kinds of things. So I don't let these little things that I see, hear, and sometimes feel get in the way of what I think I need to be doing. You know, there's another saying that I like very much, what they taught you does not matter. What matters is what you answer to.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Yes, what you answer to is definitely what matters. Congressman Jim Clyburn, thanks so much.

JIM CLYBURN: Thanks for having me.