President Biden said Wednesday that the only reason not to eliminate the filibuster is that doing so would “throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done.”
At CNN’s town hall Wednesday evening, one attendee asked Biden whether it is “logical to get rid of the filibuster” in order to “protect our democracy and secure the right to vote.”
Biden began by calling the GOP’s voting law reforms “Jim Crow on steroids.”
“The abuse of the filibuster is pretty overwhelming,” the president continued, adding that he is in favor of returning to filibustering by physically standing on the floor.
“I would go back to that where you have to maintain the floor,” Biden said. “You have to stand there and talk and hold the floor.”
CNN’s Don Lemon then interjected to press Biden on the issue.
“If you hold the floor for a day or a year, what difference does it make?” Lemon asked. “Why is protecting the filibuster, is that more important than protecting voting rights, especially for people who fought and died for that?”
“No, it’s not,” Biden answered, acknowledging that he does not “want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster or exception to the filibuster or going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before.”
“But isn’t that the only way you’re going to get it done right now?” Lemon asked.
“No, I don’t believe that. I think we can get it done,” Biden responded.
Lemon referenced remarks last year by former President Barack Obama, who called the filibuster a “Jim Crow relic,” to which Biden agreed “it is.”
“If it’s a relic of Jim Crow, it’s been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically, why protect it?” Lemon asked.
“There’s no reason to protect it other than you’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done,” Biden said. “Nothing at all will get done.”
Last month, Republicans filibustered to successfully block the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the first time the minority party has used their filibuster power in the Senate this year.
With 54 votes in favor of establishing the commission and 35 against, the vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the GOP filibuster. Eliminating the filibuster would allow Democrats to use a simple majority to pass major legislation. The Senate is currently split 50-50, but Democrats have Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the tie-breaking vote.
Senate Democrats are at odds over what to do about the filibuster, with some like Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) criticizing it as a tool used to “block the will of the majority of the American people.” Meanwhile, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), has vocally opposed eliminating the filibuster. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has also defended the filibuster, saying it “protects the democracy of our nation,” despite complaints from her fellow Democrats who want to eliminate it in order to accomplish policy goals.
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