Biden Comes Out Enthusiastically For Senate Filibuster Reform

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According to a new report from Rolling Stone, President Joe Biden and his advisers “have said in recent weeks that Biden will pressure wavering Democrats to support reforming the filibuster if necessary to pass the voting [rights] bill” that will soon be considered. The Senate is slated to soon hold another vote on the ambitious voting rights bill known as the For the People Act, but at present, the chamber’s filibuster rules stand in the way of progress. These rules demand the agreement of at least 60 Senators in the 100-member chamber before moving forward, including to a final vote, on most bills. In the Senate, the filibuster is a procedural mechanism that often forces successful legislation to be at least nominally bipartisan — but most Republicans aren’t interested in bipartisanship.

According to the new Rolling Stone report, Biden’s advocacy against the filibuster rules as they stand “would aim to help Schumer convince moderate Democrats to support a carveout to the filibuster.” The idea would be to create an exemption from the Senate’s filibuster rules for a certain category of legislation, allowing for voting rights protections to pass while leaving the filibuster in place for other bills. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) has called for an exemption from the Senate’s filibuster rules for bills dealing with Constitutional rights — meaning, for instance, voting rights. As Clyburn put it:

‘No one person, no one group should be allowed to jeopardize the Constitutional rights of any American.’

Meanwhile, according to the Rolling Stone report, Biden told Schumer the following regarding filibuster reform in the Senate:

‘Chuck, you tell me when you need me to start making phone calls.’

At present, two Democratic Senators have publicly established their commitment to the filibuster, for various reasons. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of those backing the filibuster, has extolled bipartisanship — seemingly missing the fact that the bulk of the Republican Party could hardly be more opposed to substantive bipartisan cooperation with Democrats. (The other prominent supporter of the filibuster among Senate Democrats is Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.) For now, a White House official insisted to Rolling Stone that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris “have been very clear that this is a crucial priority and senior White House staff across many departments are constantly working on it.” Now is certainly the time for action. Read more on President Biden’s filibuster stance at this link.