WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden again championed a “talking filibuster” Thursday to make it harder for a minority party to block bills, and for the first time expressed willingness to go further in overhauling the rule.
At his first press conference as president, Biden received numerous questions about the 60-vote threshold, and said it is “being abused in a gigantic way.”
He said the rule should be reverted to a “talking filibuster,” which was altered to a silent filibuster in the 1970s. “You had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapse,” he said, adding that eventually the talking ends and the Senate can proceed.
“I strongly support moving in that direction,” Biden said.
The president’s remarks come as large portions of his agenda are threatened by the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, due to widespread Republican opposition in a chamber divided 50-50 between the parties. He said his goal is to find a way to negotiate and make progress on his goals.
But he also indicated he might support going further, if that fails.
“We’re going to get a lot done. And if we have to — if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” Biden said.
At this time, Democrats don’t have the 50 Senate votes required to abolish the filibuster, with some prominent holdouts who support the effective supermajority requirement to pass bills.
Biden said he intends to “get things done” consistent with his campaign promises and added: “I have never been particularly poor at calculating how to get things done in the United States Senate.”
Biden doesn’t get a vote on the filibuster, but his position matters. It could be influential with moderate Democratic senators who are on the fence. And if the caucus is unified about abolishing or modifying it, then Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the decisive vote.
Asked Thursday if he agrees with former President Barack Obama that the filibuster is a “Jim Crow relic,” Biden replied: “Yes.”
Republicans noted that the position is a reversal for Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years and has a long record of defending the 60-vote rule.
“Senator Biden was a relentless defender of the filibuster — but now that President Biden looks in the mirror and sees FDR, he’s keeping the door open for a complete 180 to blow up the institution he spent four decades defending,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a statement.