Joe Biden angered progressive Democrats at his CNN town hall on Wednesday by stating his opposition to abolishing the Senate filibuster.
“There’s no reason to protect it, other than you’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done,” Biden said. “Nothing at all will get done. There’s a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote, that’s the single most important one.”
The statement is a change from his position at his first press conference in March, when he signaled openness to axing the filibuster if the “abuse” of the practice caused “chaos.”
Radical Democrats are clamoring to remove the Senate practice, which has been around since the early days of the Congress. The practice of invoking ‘cloture’ to remove debate, however, has evolved over time.
“The Senate tradition of unlimited debate has allowed for the use of the filibuster, a loosely defined term for action designed to prolong debate and delay or prevent a vote on a bill, resolution, amendment, or other debatable question,” the U.S. Senate says. “Prior to 1917 the Senate rules did not provide for a way to end debate and force a vote on a measure. That year, the Senate adopted a rule to allow a two-thirds majority to end a filibuster, a procedure known as ‘cloture.’ In 1975 the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds of senators voting to three-fifths of all senators duly chosen and sworn, or 60 of the 100-member Senate.”
The U.S. Senate is currently split with 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Kamala Harris, as President of the Senate, can cast the deciding vote on matters that require a simple majority. But the Democrats need ten Republicans to agree to invoke cloture and overcome a filibuster. However, the Senate rules can be changed to remove the filibuster, which has been called the “nuclear option.”
Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have thus far refused to go along with the attempt to abolish the filibuster, which would require a majority. The Senators have stated their opposition to radical legislation, such as the For the People Act, which the Democratic Party desperately wants to see enacted to essentially federalize control over U.S. elections.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schuman (D-NY) called out the senators for their opposition to changing cloture rules to effectively abolish the filibuster.
“Most Democratic lawmakers, and particularly progressives, have voiced support for ending the Senate‘s legislative filibuster to pass key aspects of President Joe Biden‘s agenda—including the For the People voting rights legislation,” Newsweek reported on Thursday. “But Manchin and Sinema have resisted these calls, saying they value bipartisanship and believe such a move would lead to significant problems.”
“We have all but two Democrats who have said they would not use the filibuster on voting rights, Schumer said. “There may be a few others who haven’t taken a position, but two said, no. They’re Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema,” Schumer said during a Thursday interview with SiriusXM’s The Joe Madison Show.
“I have told them, we have to get this done,” Schumer added. “Everything should be on the table. And as I said, we’re going to continue to push. We’re going to have hearings. We’re going to have votes until we get this done.”
Progressives have pushed for Senate Democrats to ignore Biden’s opposition to abolishing the filibuster, which is providing cover for moderate Democratic Senators such as Manchin and Sinema.
Even House members are weighing in on the Senate procedure and are ratcheting up the rhetoric in opposition. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) appeared on MSNBC and called the practice of the filibuster a “racist relic.” Rep. Johnson mentioned his meeting with Black Voters Matter and framed election integrity bills as an “attack on our democracy.”
“So, speaking of extraordinary action, you and a number of democratic colleagues have been calling for the Senate to get rid of the legislative filibuster requiring 60 votes to move forward,” MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin asked. “Your colleague Jim Clyburn is suggesting that instead of completely eliminating the filibuster, the rules should be changed so that there is a carveout for laws directly tied to constitutional rights.”
“Well, that entire filibuster is hurting efforts on so many fronts,” Johnson said. “But certainly on constitutional issues such as the right to vote. There needs to be modification of the filibuster to exclude those kinds of issues from the filibuster. But in my opinion, the filibuster which is a relic of the racist past of this nation is no longer effective in advancing the just will of a minority.”
“Particularly on critical issues like voting rights,” Johnson continued. “So the 60 vote majority is hurting our democracy at this point. It certainly has no comparison to the right to vote. So it needs to go by — it needs to go by the way side like so many other archaic tradition that’s people cling to in this country that are no longer advancing what is right and just for our society.”
The debate over election integrity bills regards the use of voter IDs, absentee ballots, ballot harvesting, voting time frames, and drop boxes. Although the election integrity bills would not disenfranchise voters, Democrats argue that they make it harder for minorities to vote.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.