CNN anchor Don Lemon briefly turned Wednesday evening’s town hall into a debate, challenging President Joe Biden directly on the filibuster.
Lemon jumped into the conversation following a question about the Senate filibuster, asking several times why Biden was not in favor of simply throwing it out. (RELATED: Biden Says Fox News Has ‘Had An Alter Call’ About Vaccinations)
Recent college graduate Cory Marcum began the line of questioning by asking why, if Biden truly believed that Republican-led voter-integrity measures were the “the most dangerous threat” that American democracy has ever faced, did he not support putting an end to the filibuster in order to pass Democratic legislation that would counter them.
“While you have condemned these attacks, you and congressional members of your party have done little to actually stop these assaults,” Marcum said.
“I stand by what I said,” Biden replied, repeating his claims that Republicans were attempting to find a way to overturn elections after it was clear that Democrats had won.
“That’s never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been tried before,” Biden continued, adding, “This is Jim Crow on steroids, what we’re talking about.”
“If you were to filibuster, you had to stand on the floor and hold the floor,” Biden said. “So you had to take — there were significantly fewer filibusters in those days. In the middle of the civil rights movement.”
“Let me talk to you about that,” Lemon interjected then, but Biden kept talking.
“Let me finish my answer because I’d tell you what I would do, I would go back to you have to maintain the floor. You have to stand there and talk and hold the floor,” he said.
“I understand that. What difference does that make if you hold the floor for a day or a year, what difference does it make?” Lemon asked, noting that his own grandmother had told him stories about what it was like trying to vote during Jim Crow days when there were tests and taxes at the polls.
“So why is protecting the filibuster, is that more important than protecting voting rights, especially for people who fought and died for that?” Lemon pressed.
“No. It’s not,” Biden agreed, adding that he wanted to see legislation like HR-1 and the John Lewis Act pass, but that he wanted it to pass with some Republican support.
“What I don’t want to do is get wrapped up right now in the argument whether or not this is all about the filibuster,” Biden added. “Look, the American public, you can’t stop them from voting. More people voted last time than any time in American history in the middle of the worst pandemic in history, more people did. And they showed up. They’re going to show up again. They’re going to do it again. But what I want to do is I’m trying to bring the country together. And I don’t want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster, or exception to the filibuster, or going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before.”
Lemon pushed back, arguing that the parties were so divided that it might not be possible for Democrats to get anything passed if they waited for Republicans to offer support.
“No, I don’t believe that,” Biden replied.
“If you agree with the former president, as you call him your old boss, that it’s a relic of Jim Crow —” Lemon tried a different approach.
“It is,” Biden agreed.
“If it’s a relic of Jim Crow, it’s been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically, why protect it?” Lemon asked again.
Biden argued that pushing the debate on the filibuster would only create chaos in Congress, which would lead to nothing getting done.
He then turned to the audience, abruptly changing the subject to remind them that he had gotten them monthly child tax payments.
“And guess what? It’s cutting child poverty in half. In half,” he said.