Biden says he doesn't want voting rights 'wrapped up' in filibuster debate

Biden says he doesn't want voting rights 'wrapped up' in filibuster debate
© Greg Nash

President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race GOP lawmakers request Cuba meeting with Biden For families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football MORE on Wednesday pushed back on calls from some progressives to do away with the filibuster or making an exception for voting rights legislation, even as he called efforts by Republican state legislatures to restrict ballot access "Jim Crow on steroids."

"I’ve been saying for a long, long time the abuse of the filibuster is pretty overwhelming," Biden said at a CNN town hall in Ohio, reiterating his belief that the Senate should return to the talking filibuster that requires a lawmaker to stand on the floor to block legislation. 

"I would go back to that where you have to maintain the floor," Biden said. "You have to stand there and talk and hold the floor."

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But pressed by moderator Don LemonDon Carlton LemonBiden's belated filibuster decision: A pretense of principle at work The absolute farce that was the Biden-Lemon town hall Biden: Republicans who say Democrats want to defund the police are lying MORE about calls from voting rights advocates and some Democrats to get rid of the filibuster for an issue as urgent as voting rights, Biden said he was still holding out hope Republicans would get on board to make the legislation bipartisan and warned gutting the filibuster would throw Congress into "chaos."

"I want to make sure we bring along not just all the Democrats, we bring along Republicans who I know know better," Biden said. "They know better than this. And what I don’t want to do is get wrapped up right now in the argument whether or not this is all about the filibuster.

"Look, the American public, you can’t stop them from voting… But what I want to do is, I’m trying to bring the country together," Biden continued. "And I don’t want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster, or exceptions to the filibuster, or going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before."

Biden's optimism that Republicans may come around on federal voting rights legislation is at odds with the views of lawmakers in Congress; the For The People Act, a sweeping elections reform bill Democrats have talked up as a top legislative priority, failed to garner a single GOP vote in a Senate vote earlier this month and does not appear to have a path to passage.

The John LewisJohn LewisEthics panel taking no action after Joyce Beatty's arrest at protest Rep. Hank Johnson among demonstrators arrested at voting rights protest 10 books that take readers inside the lives of American leaders MORE Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the formula that required states and jurisdictions with noted histories of racial voting discrimination to get any new voting laws first approved by the Justice Department, also lacks sufficient GOP support in the Senate.

Progressives have argued the Senate should nix the 60-vote threshold required to advance legislation, or at least provide a carve out for voting rights.

Biden delivered a major speech on the need to protect voting rights in Philadelphia last week, where he called on Congress to pass voting rights legislation and decried rhetoric from former President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE and his allies questioning the results of the 2020 election as an existential threat to democracy. But he did not mention the filibuster at all, a point of contention with progressives and voting rights advocates.