October 25, 2021
President Joe Biden said on Thursday, October 21, that he was open to ending the Senate filibuster in order to enable Democrats to pass voting rights legislation, raise the federal debt limit, and possibly enact other parts of his agenda that have been blocked by Republicans, The New York Times reports.
However, addressing a CNN town hall meeting that night, the president said that ending the filibuster—a Senate tradition that allows the minority party to kill legislation that fails to garner 60 votes—would have to wait until after he secured passage of his spending bills, which are under negotiation on Capitol Hill.
The president said he would lose “at least three votes” on his social policy bill if he pushed an end to the filibuster. He did not say which senators he would lose.
Biden was blunt about his intentions once the debate over the spending bills was over, according to the Times. He said the need to pass sweeping voting rights legislation favored by Democrats is “equally as consequential” as the debt limit vote, which protects the full faith and credit of the United States.
Asked by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, the host of the event, whether that meant he would be open to ending the use of the filibuster so that Democrats could pass a voting rights bill, Biden said, “and maybe more.”
The president said that activists who are pushing to end the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation “make a very good point,” adding, “We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster.”
Liberal activists have grown increasingly frustrated with Biden over the past several months as Republicans used the filibuster to prevent action on major parts of the Democratic agenda. They have accused the president and his allies in Congress of being too passive by refusing to change the rules.
On Wednesday, October 20, Republicans blocked action on legislation to bolster voting rights for the third time since Biden took office. All 50 Democrats and independents supported bringing the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) to the floor, but all 50 Republicans voted against doing so—thwarting legislation that Democrats say would counter efforts in Republican-controlled states to impose new voting restrictions.
Some Democrats have urged the president to push for modifications to the filibuster so that he can pass an immigration overhaul, address prison reform, and enact more ambitious climate change legislation. If the filibuster remains intact, they argue, Biden will leave office with half his priorities unmet.
“Black and Brown voters are tired of the same scene playing out over and over,” Stephany R. Spaulding, a spokeswoman for Just Democracy, said in a statement last week. “We launch herculean mobilizations to get Democrats elected. Democrats bring legislation to the floor that would benefit communities of color, and Republicans won’t even engage in a good-faith debate.”
“Senate Democrats can no longer divorce the filibuster from the promises and issues they ran on,” she added. “They must act with urgency to get rid of the filibuster.”
Research contact: @nytimes