Former President Barack Obama used part of his eulogy for Civil Rights icon John Lewis to attack the filibuster — which he vocally supported 15 years ago.
Obama referred to the filibuster as “a Jim Crow relic,” calling for a new voting rights act in the late Democratic Georgia Congressman’s name. (RELATED: Obama Goes After Trump On George Floyd Protests At John Lewis’ Funeral)
“And by the way, naming it the ‘John Lewis Voting Rights Act,’ that is a fine tribute, but John wouldn’t want us to stop there” Obama began, saying that Americans had a responsibility to “keep marching” and build on that.
Obama went on to detail the things he thought should be included in such an act, such as automatic voter registration and the restoration of voting rights to to former inmates. He also called for the end of “partisan gerrymandering,” for Election Day to be a federal holiday and statehood for both Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
“And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim crow relic in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do,” Obama added.
But in 2005, when Obama was still serving as the junior senator from Illinois, he had a very different take on the filibuster.
“If the right of free and open debate is taken away from the minority party, and the millions of Americans who asked us to be their voice, I fear that the already partisan atmosphere in Washington will be poisoned to the point where no one will be able to agree on anything. That doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests, and it certainly isn’t what the patriots who founded this democracy had in mind,” Obama explained.
His tune changed within a decade, however, and he told Vox in 2015 that the filibuster was something he could do without — namely because it served as a very effective check against the majority party.
“The filibuster in this modern age probably just torques it too far in the direction of a majority party not being able to govern effectively and move forward its platform. And I think that’s an area where we can make some improvement,” he said.