President Joe Biden said, in his press conference on Thursday, that he supports Democrats’ efforts to end the filibuster, and he claimed that the procedural tool had been “abused” when used 250 times last year — though he neglected to mention that Democrats, not Republicans, were responsible for those filibusters.
Biden pivoted to speaking about the filibuster after being asked about the status of landmark legislation he’d proposed, including H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” a major overhaul of the electoral system, federalizing the process and forcing states to implement changes to their voting, balloting, and voter registration systems.
Biden specifically suggested returning to the “talking filibuster,” where filibustering legislators are required to hold the floor in order to prevent a vote, sometimes for hours at a time.
“With regard to the filibuster, I believe we should go back to a position with the filibuster that existed when I came to the United States Senate 120 years ago,” he joked.
He then turned serious, expressing agreement with the notion that the filibuster is a relic of the Jim Crow era, but stopping short of demanding its end.
“I strongly support moving in that direction,” Biden said. “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’ve amended the filibuster in the past.”
“We’re going to get a lot done, and 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,” he added.
Biden also suggested that he believed the filibuster had been “abused” in the past, noting that, last year, the vote-delay method had been “abused in a gigantic way” and that it had been used “250 times.”
He neglected to add that last year, his predecessor, President Donald Trump, was in office, and Democrats, who held a slim minority in the Senate, were then the difficult party, using the filibuster to block Republicans from passing Trump administration-supported legislation.
The Senate actually engaged in “record-breaking” gridlock under Trump, according to Politico, with an astounding 314 cloture votes blocking Trump agenda items and nominees, all from Democrats. President Barack Obama, for comparison, faced just 175 cloture votes.
Biden, however, wants an easier time than his predecessor had.
“We’ve got the get to the place where I get 50 votes so the vice president of the United States can break the tie or 51 without her,” he said.
During his hour-long press conference Thursday — the first of his term, nearly two months after he took office — Biden largely addressed his administrative priorities, announcing major new legislation on infrastructure, and pressing for support on his immigration and voter rights plans. He did not address the COVID-19 pandemic beyond suggesting that his administration was meeting and exceeding vaccination goals and did not go into specifics on jobs or the economy. He did not address the child migrant crisis along the border in great detail, other than to say it was being managed.
He did, surprisingly, tell reporters that he plans to run for re-election to the White House in 2024.