In yet another of the political flip-flops for which President Joe Biden has long been known, during a CNN town hall event last week, the commander in chief said he does not support the push from the left to end the Senate filibuster, despite contrary signals earlier this year, in effect siding with Republicans who argue that it must survive, as Politico reports.
Throughout the back-and-forth with host Don Lemon and members of a live audience, Biden was asked more than once about his thoughts on the filibuster, which makes it necessary to marshal at least 60 votes in order for measures to make their way through the upper chamber, instead of the simple majority that would otherwise suffice.
Biden initially attempted to sidestep the issue that has been the subject of much discussion among Democrats in recent months, particularly given the 50-50 makeup of the Senate, reminiscing nostalgically about his tenure as a legislator, when the so-called “talking filibuster” required lawmakers to physically keep control of the floor and, as Biden put it earlier this year, “talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapse” in order to successfully block progress of a bill.
As Lemon and audience questioners demanded to know whether Biden believed that preserving the Senate rule was more important than enacting a series of sweeping voting rights reforms, he indicated that abolishing the safeguards would serve to “throw the entire Congress into chaos” and that “nothing will get done,” expressing a stance sure to rile the progressive wing of his own party as well as a host of far-left advocacy groups.
Though it has long been assumed that the reason Democrats lack sufficient votes to kill the filibuster rules is that Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have signaled repeatedly that they would not support the move, as NBC News reported last month, there are other Democrats who are also unwilling to do so, including Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).
As Kaylee McGhee White of the Washington Examiner noted this week, Biden’s admission last week represents something of a departure from prior indications of openness to arguments from the far left that drastic action was needed on the filibuster, but that it was a welcome statement, in that the procedure rule provides critical protections against the tyranny of the majority in the Senate.
The filibuster “protects the rights of the minority and forces majorities to either compromise or win broader electoral mandates,” White opined, adding, “abolish the filibuster, and the Senate will be no better than the House of Representatives – a chaotic group of legislators more interested in performative action than substantive lawmaking.”
Of course, as White also cautioned, Biden’s penchant for changing his tune based on the political winds of the moment renders his latest statement on the filibuster somewhat less than dependable. If, for example, the Democrats’ current efforts to secure amnesty, mail-in voting expansion, and other far-left wish-list items via the budget reconciliation process are thwarted by the Senate parliamentarian, it seems more than plausible that his position could change once more.
As Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley aptly noted in The Hill this week, “Throughout his career, [Biden] has furiously crawled or backstroked from one side of the political pool to the other, depending on the current of public opinion,” and while Biden’s current take on the filibuster may be encouraging for now, only time will tell whether it endures.