Biden says he’s open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights

President Biden on Thursday opened the door to “fundamentally” altering or eliminating the legislative filibuster to advance voting rights and potentially pass other legislation, but he said he has held off on pushing for filibuster reform because he believes it would jeopardize his economic agenda. 

“If in fact I get myself into at this moment a debate on the filibuster, I lose at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, foreign policy side of the equation,” Biden said when asked about his position on the filibuster during a CNN town hall.

Biden reiterated his support for a return to the talking filibuster — when a senator must physically be on the Senate floor talking to block legislation — before predicting that more Democrats would support getting rid of the filibuster if Republicans were to again block efforts to raise the debt ceiling.

“I also think we’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster. The idea for example my Republican friends say that we’re going to default on the national debt because they’re going to filibuster that and we need 10 Republicans to support us, is the most bizarre thing I ever heard,” Biden said, without expanding on what he meant by “fundamentally alter.”

“If it gets pulled again, I think you’re going to see an awful lot of Democrats being ready to say, ‘not me, I’m not doing that again, we’re going to end the filibuster,’ ” he predicted. “But it still is difficult to end the filibuster, beyond that.” 

When CNN host Anderson Cooper pressed Biden on whether he would “entertain the notion” of getting rid of the filibuster on the issue of voting rights, Biden replied: “And maybe more.”

The filibuster is a rule in the Senate that requires 60 votes in the chamber to end debate on most pieces of legislation. Democrats have a razor-thin Senate majority — Vice President Harris casts the tie-breaking vote in the 50-50 Senate — and are considerably constrained in the legislation they can advance as a result of the filibuster.

Biden’s comments are likely to be welcomed by advocates who have pushed for him to be more aggressive in pushing for filibuster reform so that Democrats can pass voting legislation in the face of restrictive election laws in GOP-controlled states like Texas and Georgia.

On Wednesday, Republican senators blocked a compromise voting reform bill, the Freedom to Vote Act, from being debated.

Biden said earlier this month that curbing the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling was a “real possibility” when Republicans threatened to block Democrats from suspending  or raising the debt ceiling through regular order. Eventually, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to back down from the threat and allow Democrats to vote to raise the debt ceiling. However, lawmakers will need to act again by December, setting up another potential fight.  

Tags Charles Schumer Joe Biden Mitch McConnell
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