Biden open to scrapping filibuster, but says he can legislate either way

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WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden expressed openness to eliminating the filibuster, but said he didn’t think the political stonewalling device would ultimately prevent him from passing legislation.

In an exchange with CBS’s Errol Barnett during a wide-ranging, multi-moderator interview at a conference of Black and Latino journalists, Biden suggested that it would likely be unnecessary to eliminate the filibuster since he suspects several GOP Senate seats will go to Democrats.

“Look, we’re going to elect at least five to six Democratic senators,” said Biden. He argued that with President Trump gone, Republican senators’ “fear of retribution” would also be gone. “Number two,” he said, “you’re going to see a lot of Republicans, at least a half a dozen of them, beginning to vote their conscience because they no longer have the fear of Trump being there.”

Biden said that if the Democrats flip the Senate, “you’re going to find people willing to take a vote that in fact was controversial before, because this time it will pass.”

Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event earlier this week. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

A mere party flip, however, won’t guarantee a more civil Congress. While Democrats need only three seats to gain control of the Senate, 60 seats are needed to reach a so-called supermajority — the magic number required to override a filibuster that Democrats are unlikely to reach by Election Day.

Days before, Biden’s old running mate, former President Barack Obama, harshly condemned the filibuster during his eulogy for the late Rep. John Lewis as a barrier to the passage of progressive legislation, calling it a “Jim Crow relic.”

The filibuster was often used by Republicans to thwart legislation during the Obama administration.

When asked by Barnett if Biden agreed with Obama’s assessment, the former vice president maintained that the filibuster has had some beneficial effect, but said he’d be willing to nix it if Republicans are obstructionist.

“If in fact they are as obstreperous as is expected, we’d have to get rid of the filibuster, Biden said. “But the filibuster has also saved a lot of bad things from happening too.”

Biden addressed the issue Tuesday in an interview that will air Thursday at the convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. The combined convention is being held online this year due to the coronavirus.

In a Zoom call with reporters in early July, Biden showed a similar willingness to evaluate the filibuster and remove it depending on the behavior of Republicans in Congress.


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