The filibuster has survived Democratic and Republican presidents. With President Joe Biden in the White House, that could change.
In some of his strongest comments yet on the issue, Biden gestured toward “reforming” the filibuster in an interview Tuesday, the New York Post reported.
Biden open to filibuster “reform”
The filibuster has long been seen as an essential part of what makes the Senate a more deliberative chamber than the House. With the filibuster, most legislation needs 60 votes to pass, forcing the majority party to consider the preferences of the minority.
Democrats began talking up abolishing the filibuster during Donald Trump’s presidency as a means to override Republicans, and urgency to disregard opposition is strong now that Democrats have control of the White House and Congress.
In an interview with ABC News, Biden did not explicitly call to end the filibuster but said that “reform” is necessary and said “yes” when asked if he would have to choose between preserving the filibuster and advancing his agenda.
He said that senators should have to take over the floor to hold up a bill because “democracy is having a hard time functioning.”
“Yes, but here’s the choice: I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” Biden told host George Stephanopoulos. “You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking,” he said.
Dems eye “reform” amid calls to abolish
Biden was referring to the “talking filibuster” made famous by actor Jimmy Stewart in the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
While his proposal may seem alarming, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said as recently as Monday that abolishing the filibuster is “on the table,” and Biden has already signed a strictly partisan COVID relief bill into law, despite his calls for “unity.”
Until recently, few lawmakers questioned the filibuster’s value, and Biden himself praised it in 2005 for promoting “compromise and moderation.” But Democrats have increasingly attacked it as a tool of “obstruction” and even a racist relic of Jim Crow.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who lost his majority in the last election, sent a warning to Democrats this week that nixing the filibuster would not end well, Breitbart reported.
“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.