President Joe Biden suggested he may be open to eliminating the filibuster in response to Republican abuse in his first press conference in office, CBS News reports.
Despite winning control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, Biden’s agenda faces a massive roadblock in the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to end debate. Though Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill with a simple majority using budget reconciliation, the process is limited to spending bills and cannot be used to expand voting rights, pass DC and Puerto Rico statehood, and raise the minimum wage as Democrats hope.
Centrist Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have vowed to oppose eliminating the filibuster but the issue has gained urgency as Democrats look to expand voting rights in the face of hundreds of voting restrictions proposed by Republicans in dozens of states.
Biden flips on filibuster:
Biden has long defended the filibuster but said on Thursday that it was “being abused in a gigantic way."
Biden reiterated his support for reform that would force senators "to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapse.”
"I strongly support moving in that direction," he said, adding, "If we have to, if there's complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we'll have to go beyond what I'm talking about.”
Manchin still opposes:
Manchin said in a statement that he wants a bipartisan solution on voting rights even though the GOP has gone all-in on restricting ballot access.
"As the Senate prepares to take up the For the People Act, we must work toward a bipartisan solution that protects everyone's right to vote, secures our elections from foreign interference, and increases transparency in our campaign finance laws. Pushing through legislation of this magnitude on a partisan basis may garner short-term benefits, but will inevitably only exacerbate the distrust that millions of Americans harbor against the U.S. government," Manchin said in a statement.
He ruled out carving out an exception in the filibuster rules specifically for voting rights, comparing it to “like being a little bit pregnant.”
But centrist Democrat Angus King said he would be open to scrapping the filibuster for voting rights.
"All-out opposition to reasonable voting rights protections cannot be enabled by the filibuster; if forced to choose between a Senate rule and democracy itself, I know where I will come down," King said.