Clyburn says he would work to 'transform' Democratic Caucus as Speaker

Clyburn says he would work to 'transform' Democratic Caucus as Speaker
© Greg Nash

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is touting his qualifications to be a possible future Speaker of the House, saying he would work to "transform" the Democratic Caucus.

“I think our party needs to be transformed and that’s what I’m talking about,” Clyburn told McClatchy for a story published Tuesday.

He also brushed off the suggestion that he would be a custodian in the position.

"Custodial? Lord, no," he said.

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Clyburn, 78, currently sits as the third-ranking House Democrat, behind Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act MORE (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerDemocrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her Dems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash MORE (D-Md.).

Some Democrats have called for new figures to enter top leadership spots, a debate that was roiled in June when 28-year-old political upstart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the No. 4 House Democrat, in a primary.

Clyburn reiterated to McClatchy that he has no intention of challenging Pelosi for the top leadership spot should Democrats retake the House in November, but cast himself as a potential successor should she fail to secure support from the caucus.

The South Carolina lawmaker said that he is “very much up for” the challenge of becoming the first African-American Speaker.

"Trump asked the question (about himself), ‘What do I have to lose?’" Clyburn said, referencing President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE’s pitch to black voters in 2016.

"What do I have to lose?" he added.

A report from NBC News earlier this month showed that at least 50 Democratic candidates on the November midterm ballot – including nine incumbents – oppose Pelosi for Speaker. Another 34 declined to offer support for her, deferring the decision.

Even if Democrats opted to not select Pelosi as leader should the party retake the House, Clyburn could have competition for the top leadership spot from Hoyer.

“If we were all smart and strategic that race will never occur,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), a former Black Caucus chairman and member of Hoyer's whip team, told McClatchy last month of a potential Hoyer-Clyburn contest. “Nobody wants that to happen."

Clyburn said he would turn the party's focus to winning over African Americans, particularly young ones, whom he thinks the Democrats have taken "for granted." To do so, Clyburn said that Democrats need to go beyond an anti-Trump platform.

“We can’t just go around being Republican-lite,” Clyburn said. “We have to be out there putting forth an alternative for our constituents because that is what it’s going to take for them to really rally around us. And we aren’t satisfied that enough attention is being paid to that.”