After vowing to be a leader who prioritizes "unity" and breaks down political divisions, President Joe Biden hailed the $1.9 trillion spending bill passed in Congress without Republican support and conceded the filibuster is broken and might need to be abolished.
"Many of you thought that there was no possibility of my getting the plan I got passed, passed without any Republican votes — pretty big deal," Biden said during the answer to his first question at his first presidential news conference, an event that ended a 65-day drought that marked the longest in modern presidential history.
He added: "Got passed, growing the economy, people's lives are changing. So, let's see what happens. All I know, I've been hired to solve problems, to solve problems, not create division."
But Biden was pressed on whether he supports continuing to push legislation through the Senate with a mere 50 votes plus Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote in the evenly split Senate.
"It used to be you had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed," Biden said of traditional filibusters. "And guess what? People got tired of talking and tired of collapsing. Filibusters broke down and we're able to break the filibuster and get a quorum and vote.
"So, I strongly support moving in that direction."
Ultimately, Biden continued, the goal should be to pass legislation that his agenda sets -- meaning the reform of the filibuster might be justified.
The filibuster is a tactic in the U.S. Senate that allows for endless debate to stall legislation by keeping the chamber from voting on it. It was first codified in Senate rules in 1917. Prior to that, the Senate had no rules to end debate, and the chamber installed a 67-vote threshold to create one. That was reduced to 60 in 1975.
"In addition to having an open mind about dealing with certain things that are just elemental to the functioning of our democracy, like the right to vote, like the basic right to vote, we have amended the filibuster in the past," Biden said. "But here's the deal, as you observe I'm a fairly practical guy, I want to get things done. I want to get them done consistent with what we promised the American people.
"And in order to do that in a 50-50 senate, we've got to get to the place where I get 50 votes so the vice president of the United States can break the tie. Or I get 51 votes without her.
"I am going to say something outrageous: I have never been particularly poor at calculating how to get things done in the U.S. Senate. So, the best way to get something done, if it holds near and dear to you," he said before trailing off.
"If we have to, if there's complete lockdown and chaos as a sequence to the filibuster, then we'll have to go beyond what I'm talking about."
Biden said that he doubts the Senate will ever be able to fully go to the "nuclear option" to pass any and all legislation with a simple majority instead of the 60-vote threshold required in the Senate.
"If we can end it with 51, we'd have no problem — the existing rule, it's going to be hard to get a parliamentary ruling that allows 50 votes to end the existence of a filibuster," Biden said. "It's not my expertise in what the rules on how to get there are."
Biden then pivoted to a goal of passing legislation over changing the current rule of the Senate.
"Our preoccupation with the filibuster is totally legitimate," he said. "In the meantime, we can do a lot; there's a lot we can do while talking about the filibuster."
After calling it a relic of the Jim Crow era, Biden was asked about abolishing it as president.
"Successful electoral politics is the art of possible," he said. "Let's figure out how we can get this done and move [in] the direction of significantly changing the abuse of even the filibuster rule first.
"It's been abused from the time it came into being by an extreme way in the last 20 years. Let's deal with the abuse first."
When CNN's Kailtan Collins pressed him on moving to abolish it, Biden simply said: "I answered your question."
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