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President Joe Biden supports changing the filibuster in the Senate to pre-1970 rules when senators had to hold the floor for hours to prevent a vote on a controversial bill.
Biden sat for an interview with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday night in Darby, Pennsylvania. The full interview aired on Wednesday morning during Stephanopoulos’ show “Good Morning America.”
During the interview, Stephanopoulos asked Biden if he supported changing or eliminating the filibuster rule in the Senate in order to get his agenda passed. The rules governing the Senate are set by the body and the president has no direct power to change the rules. Democrats on Capitol Hill have voiced support for scrapping the filibuster, which effectively blocks most legislation except that with wide bipartisan support, in order to advance Biden’s agenda.
Stephanopoulos: Aren’t you going to have to choose between preserving the filibuster and advancing your agenda?
Biden: Yes, but here’s the choice. I don’t think you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate, and that is in a filibuster, you had to stand up and command the floor. Once you stopped talking, you’ve lost that and someone could come in and say, ‘I move the question of-.’ So you got to work for the filibuster.
Stephanopoulos: So you’re for that reform, you’re for bringing back the talking filibuster?
Biden: I am. That’s what it was supposed to be.
Stephanopoulos: Just put a hold on it, that’s it.
Biden: Yeah, it’s almost getting to the point where democracy is having a hard time functioning. I’m not saying this is going to be easy, George, but I do believe there’s enough Republicans over time …
Stephanopoulos: They haven’t had that epiphany you said they were going to see during the campaign.
Biden: Oh no, well, I’ve only been here six weeks, pal. Okay? Give me a break.
EXCLUSIVE: @GStephanopoulos: “You’re for bringing back the talking filibuster?”
— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 17, 2021
Under current Senate rules, any one senator may filibuster a bill, potentially killing it by blocking the Senate from voting on it. Sixty senators must vote to override the filibuster and close debate to force a vote. In practice, the filibuster means that only bills with broad bipartisan support are passed by the Senate.
Prior to 1970, individual senators had to physically hold the floor of the Senate, speaking for hours to keep debate open and run out the time for a vote. In 1970, the Senate changed its filibuster procedure so that a senator may just move to filibuster a bill and the body could move on to other business.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned Democrats that he would ram a slew of conservative policies through the Senate once Republicans are back in the majority if the Democrats moved now to scrap the filibuster.
“As soon as Republicans wound up back in the saddle, we wouldn’t just erase every liberal change that hurt the country. We’d strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero — zero — input from the other side,” McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor.