- Biden said nixing the filibuster would lead to “chaos” and “nothing could get done.”
- Activists are pressing Biden to back eliminating the filibuster to pass voting rights protections.
- “What I don’t want to do is get wrapped up right now in the argument of whether this is all about the filibuster,” Biden said during a CNN town hall.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
President Joe Biden declined again to call for changes to the Senate filibuster to pass voting rights legislation in a Wednesday town hall with CNN’s Don Lemon, saying that getting rid of the rule would lead to “chaos.”
The current Senate filibuster rules require 60 votes to advance to debate and to pass most legislation, except some budget-related measures, like the American Rescue Plan, that can be passed by a simple majority with budget reconciliation.
Biden, who served in the upper chamber for 36 years, said that he believes the filibuster has been “abused,” but that the alternative of getting rid of it could be worse.
“There’s no reason to protect it other than you’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done. Nothing at all will get done. And there’s a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote,” Biden said.
-The Recount (@therecount) July 22, 2021
So far in Biden’s presidency, Republicans have filibustered legislation to create an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol insurrection and the For The People Act, or S1, Democrats’ massive, sweeping voting rights and democracy reform legislation.
Congressional Democrats are looking next to the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court struck down in 2013 in the Shelby v. Holder case.
Voting rights advocates, many of whom have expressed open frustration with what they see as a lack of urgency on voting rights from the White House, have pushed Biden to back nixing the filibuster altogether or endorse a voting rights-specific carve-out.
“Protecting the filibuster, is that more important than protecting voting rights, especially for people who fought and died for that?” Lemon asked.
“No, it’s not. I want to see the United States Congress, the United States Senate pass S1 and S4, the John Lewis Act, get it to my desk so I can sign it,” Biden replied.
“But here’s the deal: what I also want to do is make sure we bring along not just all the Democrats, we bring along Republicans who I know better. They know better than this. And what I don’t want to do is get wrapped up right now in the argument of whether this is all about the filibuster,” he added.
Biden further said that he’s “trying to bring the country together” and doesn’t want “the debate to only be about we have a filibuster or exceptions to the filibuster or going back to how the filibuster had to be used before.”
Despite Biden holding out hope that the John Lewis Voting Rights Act could receive bipartisan support, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is, so far, the only Republican in either chamber to support the measure.