President Biden said he supports changing the Senate filibuster, but wants to take the procedural rule back to when a senator had to hold the floor by talking for hours to delay a bill — a move the chamber’s Republican leader vowed would result in a “100-car pileup.”
Biden was asked during an interview that aired on ABC Wednesday how he would choose between preserving the filibuster or pushing his legislative agenda through a narrowly divided Senate.
“Yes, but here’s the choice: I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” Biden told host George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America.”
“You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking,” he said.
“You’re for that reform?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“I am. That’s what it was supposed to be,” the president said, adding “It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning.”
The Senate under current rules requires 60 votes to end debate and pass legislation, meaning Democrats have to get 10 Republicans to vote with them to approve bills in the 50-50 divided chamber.
Democrats argue that meeting that threshold allows Republicans to indefinitely delay their agenda, including immigration reform, voting rights and infrastructure, and have talked about getting rid of the rule in favor of compromising.
Most recently Democrats managed to bypass the filibuster to approve Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package by using reconciliation, which allows spending legislation to pass by a simple majority.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned on Tuesday that if Democrats abandon the filibuster he would turn the Senate into a “100-car pileup” for bills in the chamber.
The Kentucky Republican said Senate rules are based on cooperation and noted that even turning the chamber’s lights on before noon “requires unanimous consent.”
If Democrats scrap the filibuster, McConnell said, “We will use every other rule to make tens of millions of Americans’ voices heard.”
“This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books,” McConnell cautioned.
“The Senate would be more like a 100-car pileup — nothing moving.”
Biden was referring to the “talking filibuster,” which requires a senator to command the Senate floor simply by yakking as long as possible.
The record for longest filibuster belongs to Sen. Strom Thurmond, who talked for 24 hours and 18 minutes to delay a vote on the Civil Rights Act of 1957.