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Biden Warns Republicans at Press Conference: Don’t Abuse the Filibuster, or Else

When asked if he’d back ending the archaic Senate rule, Biden deferred: “Let’s deal with the abuse first,” he said.

President Joe Biden answers a question during his first press briefing in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 25, 2021.

President Joe Biden warned Senate Republicans on Thursday that if they used the filibuster to obstruct his legislative agenda that he would support moves to change the rule. Biden also left open the possibility of backing efforts to end the filibuster altogether.

Speaking during his first press conference since becoming president, Biden said the filibuster is being “abused in a gigantic way” for partisan purposes. He explained to reporters that reforming the rule may be the best way forward.

“I strongly support moving in that direction,” Biden said.

The president stated support for reinstating the talking filibuster “in addition to having an open mind about dealing with certain things that are just elemental to the functioning of our democracy.”

In a warning to Republicans, Biden added that if “there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster,” Democratic lawmakers may have to “go beyond what I’m talking about” regarding changes to the rule — implying potential support for killing off the filibuster.

In a follow-up question about the filibuster, the president stopped short of endorsing its abolition as a first step. “Let’s deal with the abuse first,” Biden said.

Biden’s comments on Thursday echo a possible strategy Democrats may employ in order to pass bills in the Senate, or to reform the filibuster rule if they can’t do so. Democrats are reportedly contemplating putting several bills up for a vote in order to make the case for reform or removal of the rule based on Republicans’ refusal to negotiate or allow legislation to pass. Sources speaking to Axios have suggested Biden might be open to this plan, and may even support ending the filibuster completely if it means he can get multiple agenda items passed through Congress.

There is broad support among the public for ending the filibuster. A Vox/Data for Progress poll released this week shows majority or plurality support for ending the Senate rule if it means bills related for issues such wage increases, voting rights and infrastructure spending.

The poll found that 53 percent of Americans would back ending the filibuster if Democrats can pass a bill raising the minimum wage. Fifty-two percent of respondents in the poll said they’d support ending the rule if it meant passage of the For the People Act, which deals with expanding voting rights and accessibility across the entire U.S.

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