Elizabeth Warren: Filibuster 'has deep roots in racism'

Elizabeth Warren: Filibuster 'has deep roots in racism'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenForgiving K in school loans would free 36 million student borrowers from debt: data IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting trillion Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  MORE (D-Mass.) on Thursday called the filibuster racist as progressive calls to eliminate the Senate procedural move grow.

“The filibuster ... was designed to give the South the ability to veto any effective civil rights legislation or anti-lynching legislation,” Warren told Axios.

“The filibuster has deep roots in racism, and it should not be permitted to serve that function, or to create a veto for the minority. In a democracy, it's majority rules,” she added.


Rep. Hank JohnsonHenry (Hank) C. JohnsonDemocrats to offer bill to expand Supreme Court Congressional Black Caucus members post selfie celebrating first WH visit in four years Overnight Defense: Navy medic killed after wounding 2 sailors in Maryland shooting | Dems push Biden for limits on military gear transferred to police | First day of talks on Iran deal 'constructive' MORE (D-Ga.) echoed these sentiments, telling Axios, “It's important that we not continue to allow the filibuster to be a tool used to suppress the right to vote, that black people have fought and died for.”

The idea of the filibuster as racist dates back to the pre-Civil War era, when the legislative tactic was used to block the admission of states based on their slavery status, political scientist and University of Miami congressional specialist Gregory Koger told Politifact.

Later on, during the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction eras, senators used filibusters against civil rights bills, the deployment of federal troops in southern states, and the repayment of income taxes from the Civil War, Kroger added.

These comments come amid tense debate regarding the future of the filibuster. Several Democrats are keen on eliminating the 60-vote requirement to advance legislation, while Republicans are staunchly opposed.

Senate Democrats, however, do not yet have enough votes to reform the rules in the 50-50 chamber.


Liberals fear that without filibuster reform, several of the Biden administration's top priorities — including legislation on voting rights, climate change and gun reform — are DOA in the upper chamber.

“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,” Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSchumer warns Democrats can't let GOP block expansive agenda Holder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (D-Ill.) said on Monday.

Republicans are accusing Democrats of hypocrisy for discussing changes to the filibuster when they used it to block GOP proposals during the previous Congress.

“Senator Warren filibuster[ed] multiple bills last year,” a top aide for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Memo: Biden puts 9/11 era in rear view Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP MORE (R-Ky.) wrote on Twitter in response to Warren’s comments.

On Tuesday, McConnell did not mince words when warning against removing the filibuster, saying, “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.”

President BidenJoe BidenHouse panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Democrats to offer bill to expand Supreme Court Former Israeli prime minister advises Iran to 'cool down' amid nuclear threats MORE leaned into the filibuster debate on Tuesday, endorsing a change to the Senate rules that would bring back the talking filibuster.

“You had to stand up and command the floor and you had to keep talking along,” Biden said during an interview with ABC News anchor George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosBiden was right to call Putin a 'killer' — but is he doing enough to save Alexei Navalny? Senate Republican targets infrastructure package's effect on small business job creators Energy secretary: 'We don't want to use past definitions of infrastructure' MORE. “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. It is almost getting to the point where democracy is having a hard time functioning,” he added.