President Joe Biden said Wednesday that scrapping the filibuster would “throw the entire Congress into chaos” and that “nothing at all will get done.”
During a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, the president was repeatedly pressed on his stance on the legislative filibuster, which establishes a 60-vote threshold to move most bills through the Senate. Biden deflected when an audience member asked him if abolishing the filibuster is the logical next step to address the attack on voting rights — what Biden has called the “most significant threat to our democracy since the Civil War.”
Biden said the “abuse of the filibuster is pretty overwhelming,” before talking about his decades in the Senate, when members had to “hold the floor.” The president stuck to his long-standing position and said he supports filibuster reform that would return to those rules, requiring those who oppose a bill to remain physically on the Senate floor in order to block it.
When pressed by CNN’s Don Lemon on why the filibuster is worth protecting, Biden said keeping the filibuster is not more important than protecting voting rights. He said that he believes his administration and Congress can pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act without axing the Senate rule — one Biden has agreed, as former President Barack Obama put it, is a “relic of the Jim Crow era.”
He said abolishing the rule would give Republicans in Congress an excuse to spend time debating the filibuster instead of passing his legislative agenda.
“There’s no reason to protect it other than you’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done. Nothing at all will get done. And there’s a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote,” Biden said. “Wouldn’t my friends on the other side love to have a debate about the filibuster instead of passing the recovery act?”
In recent months, more of the Senate’s 50 Democrats have expressed a willingness to abolish or modify the filibuster, as activists have continued to put pressure on the White House to budge. The president’s reluctance to shift has put him at odds with civil rights leaders, labor and social justice advocates, as well as a growing number of Democrats.