President Joe Biden for the first time backed reforming the Senate filibuster in response to Republican obstruction during an interview with ABC News.
"Aren't you going to have to choose between preserving the filibuster, and advancing your agenda?" host George Stephanopoulos asked Biden after Republicans balked at his coronavirus relief package and his upcoming infrastructure bill.
"Yes, but here's the choice: I don't think that you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days," Biden said. "You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking."
"So you're for that reform? You're for bringing back the talking filibuster?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"I am. That's what it was supposed to be," Biden replied. "It's getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning.”
Filibuster on the chopping block:
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said just prior to Biden’s interview that he would prefer “not to make changes” to the filibuster was was “open to hearing” ideas.
Many Democrats have backed eliminating the filibuster altogether but centrist Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema vowed to defend it.
But amid unanimous GOP obstruction, even Manchin seems to be opening up to the idea of reforming the filibuster.
“The filibuster should be painful, it really should be painful and we've made it more comfortable over the years,” he told Fox News earlier this month. “Maybe it has to be more painful.”
“If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk,” he added. “I'm willing to look at any way we can, but I'm not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.”
McConnell vows “scorched earth” response:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees to push through three Trump-appointed justices, threatened that the Senate gridlock under Obama and Trump would seem like “child’s play” compared to what is to come.
“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin to imagine — what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like,” he said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
“This is an institution that requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon, to proceed with a garden-variety floor speech, to dispense with the reading of a lengthy legislative text, to schedule committee business, to move even non-controversial nominees at anything besides a snail’s pace,” he added.