Senate

Biden says he supports return to ‘talking filibuster’

President Biden said for the first time Tuesday that he supports changing the Senate filibuster rules to bring back the so-called talking filibuster, a notable shift after the White House insisted that his preference was to not make changes.

Biden during an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos said he endorses reforming the filibuster by returning to the tradition of talking filibusters — when senators needed to be on the floor talking to block bills — because “democracy is having a hard time functioning.”

“You had to stand up and command the floor and you had to keep talking along,” Biden said. “Once you stopped talking, you lost that and someone could move in and say, I move to the question of.”

“You’ve got to work for the filibuster,” Biden said. “It is almost getting to the point where democracy is having a hard time functioning.”

Biden noted that he didn’t think the Senate needed to get rid of the filibuster. Still, his remarks Tuesday will be well-received by Democrats who have been pushing for reform and will increase momentum behind such a change. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier Tuesday that Biden’s “preference” is “not to make changes” to the filibuster, but she didn’t rule it out.

“He is also open to hearing ideas. And those discussions will happen in Congress. This is, of course, a Senate rule. It’s not a law that he would change or sign into law,” Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Democrats need 60 votes in order to cut off debate on most pieces of legislation in the Senate, meaning that the filibuster stands as a major obstacle for Biden in accomplishing his legislative agenda given the 50-50 makeup of the upper chamber.

Democrats used the special budget reconciliation process to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill without Republican support earlier this month.

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, sharply rebuked the filibuster on Monday, arguing, like Biden, that it was harming democracy.

“The filibuster is still making a mockery of American democracy. The filibuster is still being misused by some senators to block legislation urgently needed and supported by a strong majority of the American people,” Durbin said in a floor speech.

Biden’s remarks to ABC came the same day that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Democrats against changing the filibuster rules.

“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin, to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “I want our colleagues to imagine a world where every single task, every one of them, requires a physical quorum.”

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) do not support doing away with the filibuster altogether, meaning that Democrats would not have the votes to do so. However, Manchin has previously suggested he may be open to reverting back to the talking filibuster.  

Tags Dick Durbin filibuster reform George Stephanopoulos Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Mitch McConnell talking filibuster

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