Biden says the Senate is ‘a shell of its former self’ in call to remove the filibuster for voting rights legislation

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
  • President Joe Biden, a self-described “institutionalist,” put the Senate on notice Tuesday.
  • Biden said the Senate “has been rendered a shell of its former self.”
  • He called for an exception for the filibuster, a 60 vote threshold instead of a 51 vote majority.

President Joe Biden, one of the biggest proponents of the US Senate as “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” spoke in some of the harshest terms of his career on its contribution to gridlock in Washington.

“Sadly, the United States Senate, designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body, has been rendered a shell of its former self,” Biden said Tuesday in his speech from Georgia. “It gives me no satisfaction in saying that as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate. But as an institutionalist, I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave, that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills.”

Long cautious about such a move during the 2020 campaign and earlier in his presidency, Biden finally called for removing the filibuster — a 60-vote threshold to move on legislation instead of a 51 vote majority — at least when it comes to voting rights.

“Debate them. Vote. Let the majority prevail,” Biden said. “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”

Biden expressed frustration with GOP senators over their inaction on voting legislation, which the White House put on the back burner for much of 2021 as it focused on moving the president’s economic agenda through Congress.

“The filibuster’s not used by Republicans to bring the Senate together but to pull it further apart,” Biden said.

“I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the past two months,” the president said at an earlier point in the speech. “I’m tired of being quiet.”