President Joe Biden said preserving the filibuster outweighed election reform during a televised town hall Wednesday night.
Biden explained that abolishing the filibuster completely would “throw the entire Congress into chaos” and that “nothing at all will get done,” Politico reported.
“I’m trying to bring the country together,” he said, “and I don’t want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster or exceptions to the filibuster or going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before.”
Republicans, Biden said, would have an excuse to spend time debating the rule instead of passing legislation.
“There’s no reason to protect [the filibuster] other than you’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done,” he said. “Nothing at all will get done. And there’s a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote. Wouldn’t my friends on the other side love to have a debate about the filibuster instead of passing the recovery act?”
The Senate filibuster requires 60 votes to end debate and move most bills through. That threshold is a challenge in a chamber currently split evenly along party lines.
Biden has called Republican-led efforts for election reform around the country the “most significant threat to our democracy since the Civil War.”
Progressives have increased pressure on Biden to support axing the filibuster after Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the Democrats’ “For The People Act.”
When pressed on the filibuster by CNN’s Don Lemon during the town hall in Cincinnati, Biden said voting rights were more important than keeping the tactic in its current form. He added he agreed with former President Barack Obama that the filibuster was a “relic of the Jim Crow era.”
Saying “abuse” of the filibuster is “pretty overwhelming,” Biden reiterated his long-standing position, supporting reform that would require those who oppose a bill to remain physically on the Senate floor in order to block it.
Biden referenced former Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., who once conducted a 24-hour filibuster in a failed bid to halt passage of civil rights legislation in 1957.
“There were significantly fewer filibusters in those days, in the middle of the Civil Rights movement,” Biden said.
Biden said he believed Democrats can pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act — which would restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — without abolishing the filibuster.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in March warned that Biden risked a “scorched earth” Congress if he supported efforts to end the filibuster.