President Joe Biden said Thursday he would be open to ending the Senate filibuster to ram through a sweeping federal overhaul of U.S. elections and other parts of his agenda, but added that pushing to end the filibuster now would kill any chance of passing his economic agenda.
During CNN’s Thursday night town hall, Anderson Cooper asked the president: “When it comes to voting rights, just so I’m clear, though, you would entertain the notion of doing away with the filibuster on that one issue, is that correct?”
“And maybe more,” Biden said.
The president cautioned that pushing to end the filibuster now would endanger his “Build Back Better” agenda by angering moderate Democrats, whose votes are needed to pass a multitrillion spending proposal currently being negotiated in the Senate.
BIden said that if he demands an end to the filibuster, “I lose at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, the foreign policy side of the equation.”
Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SInema (D-Ariz.) are both publicly opposed to changing or making exemptions to the filibuster, which creates a 60-vote requirement in the Senate to advance legislation. A Senate majority is needed to change the body’s parliamentary procedure, so assuming no Republicans in the 50-50 Senate vote to end the filibuster, every Democratic vote is needed to change the rules.
Despite their opposition, Biden said: “We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster.”
He added it “remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of fundamentally — on whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.”
The president predicted that if Republicans repeat their attempt to filibuster a debt limit increase in December, when the federal government will reach its $28.8 trillion cap on borrowing, fed-up Democrats will change the rules and prevent debt limit increases, and possibly more, from being filibustered.
“The idea that, for example, my Republican friends say that we’re going to default on the national debt because they’re going to filibuster that and we need 10 Republicans to support us is the most bizarre thing I ever heard,” Biden said.
“I think you’re going to see — if it gets pulled again — you’ll see an awful lot of Democrats being ready to say, ‘not me. I’m not doing that again. We’re going to end the filibuster.’ But it still is difficult to end the filibuster beyond that,” he added.