Biden says he’s open to altering filibuster on voting rights

President Joe Biden said Thursday he would be open to altering the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation, but said attempting to do so now would hamper his ability to pass his economic agenda.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Biden at a CNN town hall: “When it comes to voting rights, just so I’m clear though, you would entertain the notion of doing away with the filibuster on that one issue, is that correct?”

“And maybe more,” Biden responded.

The comments mark a shift from the President’s previous stance on the issue.

But he also said that if he waded into the debate on eliminating the filibuster at this moment, “I lose at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, the foreign policy side of the equation.”

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both expressed opposition to altering the filibuster. All Democrats would have to be on board with making such a change, as Democrats have the slimmest of majorities in the Senate.

In the meantime, Biden said he would propose a return to the so-called “talking filibuster,” which requires senators to speak continuously on the floor to hold up votes.

But, Biden said: “We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster.” He said it “remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of fundamentally — on whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.”

Biden said earlier this month it was a “real possibility” that Senate Democrats would look to change the filibuster rules in order to overcome Republican opposition and raise the debt ceiling. Democrats and Republicans eventually reached a deal to temporarily avert economic disaster following weeks of partisan deadlock over the issue.

“The idea that, for example, my Republican friends say that we’re going to default on the national debt because they’re going to filibuster that and we need 10 Republicans to support us is the most bizarre thing I ever heard,” Biden said on Thursday.

The President said: “I think you’re going to see — if it gets pulled again — you’ll see an awful lot of Democrats being ready to say, ‘not me. I’m not doing that again. We’re going to end the filibuster.’ But it still is difficult to end the filibuster beyond that.”

Biden said there were “certain things that are just sacred rights” and “sacred obligation” that shouldn’t be beholden to obstruction from the minority party, listing the debt limit and voting rights.

His language on the issue on Thursday was stronger than it has been in the past.

At a CNN town hall in July, Biden said: “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. Nothing at all will get done. And there’s a lot at stake.”

He had been pressed by CNN’s Don Lemon on whether the filibuster should be abolished in order to pass a broad voting rights bill that was stuck in the Senate due to Republican opposition. Biden had just called the ongoing efforts in Republican state legislatures to pass restrictive voting legislation “Jim Crow on steroids.”

Republicans have blocked a number of voting rights bills. Most recently, Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked the Freedom to Vote Act.

The bill would make it easier to register to vote, make Election Day a public holiday, ensure states have early voting for federal elections and allow all voters to request mail-in ballots. The measure would also bolster security on voting systems, overhaul how congressional districts are redrawn and impose new disclosures on donations to outside groups active in political campaigns.

Democrats argued that the bill is a necessity after Republican state legislatures passed laws limiting access to the ballot box following former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

This story has been updated with additional information.

The-CNN-Wire
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