Biden says filibuster is being abused, threatens to back changes if legislation stalls
President Biden opened the door Thursday to reforming the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation and more if partisan gridlock prevents the Senate from moving on key legislation that he says is elemental to the functioning of democracy.
Biden, in his first press conference since his inauguration, said the filibuster is being "abused in a gigantic way."
The Senate tradition requires 60 votes for most legislation to advance, which means Democrats would need GOP support for their top priorities this year -- including immigration reform, gun control, climate change and voting rights.
Biden said Thursday he "strongly support[s]" reforming the silent filibuster to a "talking" filibuster where senators who want to block legislation would have to hold the floor by talking endlessly. He cited statistics that there were just 58 motions to break a filibuster from 1917 to 1971, but just last year, there were "five times that many."
Biden said he agreed with former President Barack Obama's assessment that the filibuster was a "Jim Crow relic." He expressed disgust for actions states are currently taking to clamp down on voting, alluding to a proposal in Georgia to ban giving away food and water to voters waiting in line to vote.
"This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle," Biden said of the voting restrictions certain GOP states are trying to impose.
Biden stressed the importance of passing H.R. 1, the House's major voting and election reform legislation, as a way to combat efforts in states to tighten up voting restrictions. (The companion legislation is known as S.1 in the Senate.) And he said for matters such as voting rights and those "elemental to the functioning of our democracy," the 60-vote threshold may need to be reformed "beyond" a talking filibuster.
"If we have to, if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond what I’m talking about," Biden said.