Biden says he's open to removing the Senate filibuster to help Democrats push through voting rights legislation

  • In Politics
  • 2021-10-22 11:05:04Z
  • By Business Insider
Joe Biden
Joe Biden  
  • President Joe Biden addressed the Senate filibuster rules at a CNN town hall Thursday.

  • He said he was open to plans to removing the filibuster to help Dems pass voting rights legislation.

  • The filibuster has been used as blocking tactic by Senate minority parties in recent years.

President Joe Biden told a Thursday CNN town hall event that he was open to ending the Senate filibuster in order to help Democrats overcome Republican opposition and advance new voting rights bills.

Biden was asked by the host Anderson Cooper: "When it comes to voting rights, just so I'm clear though, you would entertain the notion of doing away with the filibuster on that one issue, is that correct?"

"And maybe more," the president replied.

Under the filibuster rule, legislation can be blocked indefinitely unless backers of a bill can find 60 votes to overcome the opposition. And in a Senate deeply divided along partisan lines, it effectively means Republicans have been able to block key aspects of Biden's legislative program.

Among them is a bill that would offer federal protections for voting rights amid a push by GOP state legislatures to tighten access to voting.

A compromise voting rights bill brokered by Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat, was defeated by a Republican filibuster in the Senate on Wednesday. A broader bill, the For The People Act, was blocked by Senate Republicans in June.

Another bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, is to be voted on next week and is also likely to face a Republican filibuster. It was not clear which voting rights legislation Biden would support removing the filibuster to pass.

Biden also expressed support for a "talking filibuster," under which senators talk continually on the Senate floor in order to stall a bill.

"We're going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster," Biden said, adding that it "remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of fundamentally - on whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up."

However, he said that engaging in a debate in the filibuster at this point could endanger his economic agenda, with Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, another centrist Democrat, both having said they were opposed to changing the rule.

"I lose at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, the foreign policy side of the equation," said Biden.

The support of all 50 Democrats in the Senate will also be necessary to pass his sweeping reconciliation bill, which includes funding for climate change measures and social programs.

Biden had previously signaled being open to reforming the filibuster to overcome Republican opposition and prevent a disastrous US debt default. Republicans ultimately agreed to a stopgap funding measure in early October after weeks of disputes.

Biden again raised the issue of the debt ceiling standoff on Thursday, saying it could provoke some opponents of filibuster reform to shift their positions. Issues such as voting rights and the US debt were too important to be subject to blocking tactics by the minority party, he said.

"I think you're going to see - if it gets pulled again - you'll 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.' But it still is difficult to end the filibuster beyond that," Biden said.

Only senators can change the rules of the upper chamber, and getting rid of the filibuster rule - even temporarily - would require the support of all 50 Democratic senators.


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