Biden warns GOP he could back gutting filibuster
President Biden on Thursday signaled he is open to making significant changes to the legislative filibuster in the Senate if it continues to be a roadblock to passing legislation on key agenda items like voting rights.
Biden, in his first formal press conference since taking office, reiterated his belief that the Senate should go back to the talking filibuster, which requires senators to hold the floor in order to block legislation.
He acknowledged the current system is being “abused in a gigantic way,” and indicated he may be willing to support exceptions to the filibuster or changing the rule entirely.
“I strongly support moving in that direction,” Biden said of reimplementing the talking filibuster, “in addition to having an open mind about dealing with certain things that are just elemental to the functioning of our democracy, like the right to vote. Like the basic right to vote. We’ve amended the filibuster in the past.”
“We’re going to get a lot done, and if we have to, if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” he added.
Asked later in the press conference if he’s moving closer to supporting eliminating the filibuster, Biden did not directly answer.
The president said he agreed with former President Obama’s characterization of the rule as a relic of the Jim Crow era. But when pressed on why he would not then support abolishing it, Biden said lawmakers should try to find common ground first.
“Let’s deal with the abuse first,” Biden said, referring to the increased use of the filibuster in recent years, much of which took place during the Trump administration.
The current filibuster rules require 60 votes in the Senate to move forward with legislation, meaning Democrats would need at least 10 GOP senators to join them in supporting items on Biden’s agenda.
A growing number of Democrats have called for getting rid of the filibuster, arguing it is an arcane rule that is blocking critical legislation on voting rights, gun control and immigration.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a Biden ally, has suggested there should be exceptions to the filibuster for legislation dealing with civil rights.
In order to invoke the “nuclear option” to overhaul or get rid of the legislative filibuster, all 50 Democratic senators would have to endorse the effort. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have both voiced opposition to removing the filibuster, however.
Republicans have repeatedly warned Democrats about the potential consequences of getting rid of the filibuster, and some GOP senators have even pointed to Biden’s own past rhetoric on the rule during his time serving in the chamber.
“Senator Biden was a relentless defender of the filibuster — but now that President Biden looks in the mirror and sees FDR, he’s keeping the door open for a complete 180 to blow up the institution he spent four decades defending,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement following Thursday’s press conference. “He was right when he summed it up this way numerous times: ‘The Senate ought not act rashly by changing its rules to satisfy a strong-willed majority.'”
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