Mar 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden says he supports reforming Senate filibuster

President Biden outside of the White House on March 16.
President Biden outside of the White House on March 16. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden told ABC News Tuesday he supports reforming the Senate's filibuster rule to require lawmakers to talk on the Senate floor to delay a bill’s passage.

Why it matters: It's the first time the president has publicly supported action on the rule after the White House maintained for several weeks that he opposed eliminating the filibuster altogether.

Context: Progressives have pressured Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to do away with the chamber's long-standing 60-vote threshold to pass major legislation on issues including climate change and voting rights.

  • Eliminating the filibuster would significantly limit the minority party's power, which uses the procedural rule to delay or block legislative action it opposes.

What they're saying: Asked if he would ultimately have to choose between preserving the filibuster and advancing his administration's agenda, Biden said: "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."

  • "You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking," Biden said, adding that he would support making that a requirement.
  • "That's what it was supposed to be. It's getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning,"

The big picture: Biden is advocating for the same reform as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who told "Axios on HBO" that he supports "a little bit of pain" for senators who want to filibuster and opposes a simple majority in the chamber.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) again warned Democrats on Tuesday that eliminating the legislative filibuster would "break the Senate" and turn the chamber into a "100-car pileup" where chaos reigns.
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