The White House has insisted for some time that President Joe Biden opposes eliminating the filibuster, as many Democrats want, but in an interview airing Wednesday, the president said he's open to changing the filibuster rule back to require senators once again talk on the floor to hold up a bill.
"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, who served in the Senate from 1973 to 2009, told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos Tuesday in an interview aired on "Good Morning America." "You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking."
When Stephanopoulos asked him if he's for bringing back the talking filibuster, Biden replied "I am. That's what it's supposed to be. It's getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning."
Reform advocates say the legislative filibuster, which describes any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill through debating it at length, offering procedural motions, or otherwise delaying or obstructing it, causes issues for Biden's agenda in the 50-50 Senate.
The president's answer differed from remarks White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also made on Tuesday, when she told reporters the president is "open to hearing" ideas on the filibuster but that he prefers "not to make changes."
Under current Senate rules, 60 votes are needed so that legislation can be debated and passed, meaning Democrats must have support from at least 10 Republicans before bills can advance.
Democrats say the filibuster will hold up agenda items on issues such as immigration reform and voting rights and are calling to either eliminate the procedure or change the rules. The filibuster has evolved since its beginnings to become a procedure invoked by the Senate's minority party to stop bills that won't pass without at least 60 votes.
Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., are against changing the filibuster. Manchin said Sunday on Fox News that the process should be "more painful" but "we've made it more comfortable over the years" as compared with in the past when senators had to speak at length while delaying a bill.
However, Manchin also said he hopes to get to the point of working in a bipartisan manner so that 10 or 15 Republicans will be willing to work with Democrats on legislation.
Sinema said in a statement to The New York Times that "retaining the legislative filibuster is not meant to impede the things we want to get done. Rather, it's meant to protect what the Senate was designed to be: a place where senators come together, find compromise, and get things done for our country."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile, warned Democrats on Tuesday that changing the filibuster would create "chaos" that "would not open up an express lane to liberal change. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The Senate would be more like a hundred-car pile-up. Nothing moving."
McConnell added that Republicans would take advantage of any changes in the rules when they won the Senate majority again, and that "this pendulum would swing both ways — hard."
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