President Joe Biden called on Democratic leaders to reform Senate rules and even eliminate the filibuster if Republicans continue to block his effort to nationalize election laws Tuesday.
Biden’s statement is an about-face from his previous support for the filibuster, a rule requiring a 60-vote majority to pass most legislation. Biden in March 2021 said that he wasn’t in favor of abolishing or even reforming the filibuster, a stance the left-wing of the Democratic Party has railed against for much of his time in office. Biden traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, to make the announcement Tuesday, delivering a speech alongside Vice President Kamala Harris. (RELATED: McConnell Blasts ‘The Left’s Big Lie’ As Schumer Prepares Another Voting Bill Push)
“I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, to bake them in, vote and let the majority prevail,” Biden said. “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster.”
Biden’s election bills, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, would nationalize federal election laws by allowing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to strike down state-level election procedures if it deems them to be discriminatory. Biden touted that the DOJ could take such action even before state-level policies go into effect. Critics argue the bills are a subversion of the Constitution, which requires the federal government to defer to a given state’s voting laws.
Biden argued that Georgia’s recently-passed election law is a prime example of one that the DOJ would strike down, calling the law “Jim Crow 2.0.” Republican critics have pointed out, however, that Biden’s home state of Delaware has more restrictive voting laws than those the new Georgia bill imposes. (RELATED: Georgia’s New Voting Law — Myths And Facts)
Biden tied the decision to his administration’s effort to Democrat election bills, arguing that Republicans and former President Donald Trump are working to subvert democracy. Biden says Trump only failed to overturn the results of the 2020 elections thanks to local election officials, individuals he argues may be replaced with “Trump loyalists” by the next election.
Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin remains a key obstacle for Biden’s legislation, however, stating Tuesday that he is still opposed to repealing the filibuster. He has also expressed skepticism of the voting rights legislation in its current form. With a 50-50 Senate, Manchin’s vote could tank the legislation even without the filibuster.
“We need some good rules changes to make the place work better. But getting rid of the filibuster doesn’t make the place work better,” Manchin told reporters Tuesday.
Manchin has stated that any reforms to Senate rules should have a two-thirds majority, requiring 17 Republican Senators to agree with the changes.