WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden again defended “talking obstructionism” Thursday to make it difficult for a minority party to block bills, and for the first time expressed willingness to go further in revising the rule.
In his first press conference as president, Biden received numerous questions about the 60-vote threshold and said that “it is being abused in a gigantic way.”
He said the rule should be reverted to a “talking filibuster,” which was changed to silent obstructionism in the 1970s. “You had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapse,” he said, adding that eventually the conversation ends and the Senate can continue.
“I strongly support moving in that direction,” Biden said.
The president’s comments come as much of his agenda is threatened by the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, due to widespread Republican opposition in a 50-50 house split between the parties. He said his goal is to find a way to negotiate and advance his goals.
But he also indicated that he could support going further, if that fails.
“We are going to do a lot. And if we have to do it, if there is a total lockdown and chaos as a result of obstructionism, then we will have to go beyond what I am talking about,” Biden said.
Right now, Democrats don’t have the 50 Senate votes needed to abolish filibuster, with some prominent holdouts supporting the effective supermajority requirement to pass bills.
Biden said he intends to “get things done” according to his campaign promises, adding: “I’ve never been particularly poor at figuring out how to get things done in the United States Senate.”
Biden doesn’t get a vote on filibuster, but his position is important. It could be influential with undecided moderate Democratic senators. And if the caucus is unified to abolish or modify it, then Vice President Kamala Harris will cast the deciding vote.
When asked Thursday if he agrees with former President Barack Obama that filibuster is a “Jim Crow relic,” Biden replied, “Yes.”
Republicans noted that the position is a game changer for Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years and has a long history of defending the 60-vote rule.
“Senator Biden was a tireless advocate of obstructionism, but now that President Biden looks in the mirror and sees FDR, he holds the door open for a total of 180 to blow up the institution that he spent four decades defending,” said the Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a statement.