President Biden defended the filibuster Wednesday night, a procedural tactic that propped up much of his Senate agenda, even as he reiterated that he viewed it as a relic of Jim Crow.
“There’s no reason to protect it other than throwing the whole Congress into chaos and nothing being done about it,” he told a NewsMadura City Hall in Cincinnati. “Nothing is done at all.”
Mr Biden said there was too much at stake to risk the level of “chaos” that would ignite a fight over the filibuster, including voting rights legislation he still wants to see passed. He also said waging a war against the filibuster would benefit Republicans who want to hold up his agenda. “On the other hand, wouldn’t my friends like to debate the filibuster instead of passing the Recovery Act?” he said.
During his first press conference as president last March, Mr. Biden enthuses progressives who want to change the rules for the Senate’s signature procedural weapon, which requires a supermajority of 60 votes to pass a bill. Biden said the filibuster was “majorly abused”.
That month, he also approved a return to what’s been called the talking filibuster: the requirement that opponents of legislation must occupy the floor and defend themselves against it.
On Wednesday night, he reiterated his support for a return to old form, but made it clear that he thought a filibuster fight was just a distraction.
“I’ve been saying for a long time that the filibuster abuse is pretty overwhelming,” he said.
But when it came to passing voting rights legislation, he added: “I want to make sure that we don’t just include all Democrats, but also Republicans that I know know better. They do know better than this. What I don’t want to do is now to get involved in the discussion whether this is all about the filibuster.’
Mr. Biden rejected the idea that toppling or changing the filibuster was the only way to push his agenda through a divided Congress.
“I’m trying to bring the country together,” he said. “And I don’t want the debate just about whether or not to have a filibuster, or an exception to the filibuster, or going back to the way the filibuster was supposed to be used before.”