Biden Says Senate Rules Should Change to Make Filibuster Harder

President Joe Biden signaled a willingness Tuesday to overhaul the Senate rule that allows the minority party to block legislation, saying he’d support the return of the “talking filibuster” for senators seeking to stall a vote.

“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 said in an interview with ABC News. “You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking.”

The original rule for the filibuster was “what it was supposed to be,” Biden said. “It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning.”

Progressive Democrats have been pushing to eliminate the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation to move forward, arguing that they won’t be able to act on promises to voters if every measure requires the cooperation of 10 Republicans. Centrist Democrats also increasingly say they’re open to changing Senate rules.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, one of the Democrats who has resolutely opposed doing away with the filibuster, said earlier this month that the tactic should become more “painful” for the minority party to use.

“If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk,” Manchin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I’m willing to look at any way we can, but I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.”

With Democrats turning to the rest of Biden’s agenda after using a fast-track budget process to get his $1.9 trillion stimulus through the Senate without any Republican support, outside liberal groups are pressing hard for them to end the filibuster.

Numerous Democratic priorities -- including voting-rights legislation, background checks for gun purchases, a national $15-an-hour minimum wage and an immigration overhaul -- are likely to face Republican filibusters.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats earlier Tuesday that if they were to eliminate the filibuster, Republicans would retaliate by shutting down the chamber’s most routine business. In a Senate split 50-50 between the two parties, he said, anyone could demand that 51 senators be present for any work. Although Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie in the 100-member body, her presence doesn’t count toward establishing a quorum.

“This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change,” McConnell said. “It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The Senate would be more like a 100-car pileup -- nothing moving.”

Biden, when asked Tuesday about his campaign prediction that Republicans would have an “epiphany” about the merits of bipartisanship, said the opposition party needs more time to come around to support policies he said are broadly popular with the American public.

”I’ve only been here six weeks, pal. OK? Give me a break,” he told interviewer George Stephanopoulos. “I think that epiphany is going to come between now and 2022.”

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