Filibuster: Biden says he agrees with Obama that filibuster is ‘a relic of the Jim Crow era’


When asked by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins if he agreed with Obama’s characterization of the controversial procedural tool, which came during the former president’s eulogy last summer for the late Democratic congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. , Biden replied, “Yes.”

Pressed on why he had not moved to end the obstructionism, if that is the case, the president maintained: “A successful electoral policy is the art of the possible.”

“Let’s find out how we can do this and move in the direction of significantly changing the abuse of even the obstructionist rule first,” Biden said. “He has been abused from the moment he was born, in an extreme way for the last 20 years. Let’s deal with the abuse first.”

When Collins noted that it appeared he was moving closer to supporting the removal of obstructionism, which requires a 60-vote threshold to end the debate on the legislation, he replied, “I answered your question.”

Obstructionism is a procedural tool that senators can use to delay or block a vote on legislation or an appointment. It can be used to keep a discussion going without interruption indefinitely.

The term became popular during the 1850s, “when it was applied to efforts to keep the Senate floor to avoid a vote on a bill,” according to the official Senate website, which also notes: “The record of the Senate Longest individual speech goes to Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957. “

Democrats have passed several key bills in the House recently, including voting rights and police reform, but getting the legislation passed to 50% of the Senate, where some bills require 60 votes to pass, has been a pain. obstacle for them.

‘Abused in a gigantic way’

Earlier in the press conference, Biden said that obstructionism was being “gigantic abused” and suggested he supported “strongly” going back to its original process, which would require a senator who wants to block the legislation to keep the floor without making a decision. . break.

He had told ABC News earlier this month: “I don’t think you have to remove obstructionism, you have to do it like it used to be when I first came to the Senate in the old days.”

“You had to stand up and dominate the room; you had to keep talking,” Biden said at the time.

“So you are in favor of that reform? Are you in favor of recovering the talking filibuster?” George Stephanopoulos of ABC News asked.

“I am. That’s what it was supposed to be,” Biden replied.

Still, Biden said Thursday that he has an “open mind” about using the filibuster for certain issues, including voting rights, a key legislative priority for him that he currently does not have the votes to pass.

People close to Biden previously told CNN that his resistance to Senate rule changes stems from an unconditional respect for their traditions and practices and an awareness that Democrats will not always be in the majority.

Democratic lawmakers signal resolution

Some Democratic senators who have advocated for gutting filibuster expressed their determination to reporters Thursday in response to Biden’s comment that “if there is a total lockdown and chaos as a result of filibuster, then we will have to go beyond” the changes. that he advocates.

“The president understands, as I do, that the maintenance and integrity of our democracy is far more important than any Senate rule,” said Senator Raphael Warnock, a Georgia Democrat who has lobbied to weaken filibuster to pass legislation on the right to vote.

When asked if Biden is moving fast enough to change filibuster, Warnock responded: “I have every confidence that we will find a way to reduce voting rights. We owe it to the American people.”

Senator Chris Van Hollen, meanwhile, acknowledged that general changes will not happen overnight.

“This will be an ongoing discussion and process,” said the Maryland Democrat, mentioning Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “We need to see if Senator McConnell and the Republicans continue to use that as an obstructionist tactic against common sense and very popular legislation. I see this as a journey. I would rather we solve it sooner rather than later.”

The other senator from Maryland, Democrat Ben Cardin, said he opposes “the way the Senate is operating today” and “will consider all options.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, was asked if she was disappointed that Biden did not speak out in favor of lowering the vote threshold from 60 to 51.

“The president has made it clear that he understands that obstructionism as it currently stands will prevent us from doing the job for which we were elected,” he said. “We will continue to talk about the changes that will be made. I think we need to get rid of the 60-vote threshold.”

When asked if Biden’s agreement with Obama that filibuster is a Jim Crow relic helps his cause, he replied, “It is not a question of whether it helps someone else’s cause. It is a historical fact.”

But Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, whose defense of the 60-vote threshold has complicated efforts to enact new gun laws and voting rights measures, told reporters Thursday that he disagreed with Biden that the procedure is a Jim Crow relic.

“Basically, the Senate is made to work differently,” West Virginia said, arguing that the chamber is meant to be deliberative to allow senators a chance to find consensus. “This was designed to be something different.”

This story has been updated with the reaction of Democratic senators.

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.

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