President Biden shot down calls to abolish the filibuster to clear the way for passage of the sweeping Democrat-backed elections overhaul, arguing that any effort to end use of the tactic despite a GOP outcry would jeopardize his entire 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,” he said. “Nothing at all will get done. There’s a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote, that’s the single most important one.”
Biden offered his stance during a CNN presidential town hall after an attendee and moderator Don Lemon pressed him to explain why he hasn’t called for the filibuster to be abolished.
Demands among progressives to abolish the filibuster have escalated since June, when Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the “For The People Act” after Democrats failed to secure the 60 votes required to overcome the filibuster. Biden is a staunch advocate of the bill, arguing it is a necessary check on election integrity bills in GOP-led states that the president has likened to “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”
While he is unwilling to seek an end to the filibuster, Biden said “abuse” of the tactic is “pretty overwhelming” in the Senate. The president reiterated his stance that lawmakers should be required to “hold the floor,” or deliver continued remarks in the Senate chamber, in order to maintain a filibuster.
Biden referenced former Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who once conducted a 24-hour filibuster in a failed bid to halt passage of civil rights legislation in 1957.
“There were significantly fewer filibusters in those days, in the middle of the Civil Rights movement,” Biden said.
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In March, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that Biden risked a “scorched earth” Congress if he supported efforts to end the filibuster.
“I’m trying to bring the country together, and I don’t want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster or exceptions to the filibuster or going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before,” Biden added.