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President Biden said in an interview Thursday that he would support an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rule when it comes to the wide-ranging election and campaign finance reform bill that passed the Democrat-controlled House earlier this year but hit a roadblock in the Senate.
“If the only thing standing between getting voting rights legislation passed and not getting passed is the filibuster, I support making the exception of voting rights for the filibuster,” he told ABC News.
Getting rid of the filibuster rule would lower the typical 60-vote threshold for passage to 50. In the split 50-50 Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie, allowing Democrats to push past Republicans.
His comments were quickly picked up by news outlets. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joked, “An ‘exception’ to the filibuster? This is like an engineer saying he merely wants to remove a section of the Hoover Dam.”
Biden told the network that the filibuster exception would only be done as a last resort. The president said he does not think the Senate will “have to go that far.”
Democrats have been in a full-out campaign to get Biden to agree to eliminate the filibuster, a move that the president said earlier this year would “throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done.”
Progressive Democrats have framed the filibuster issue as an opportunity for Biden to save democracy itself. The ABC News report pointed out that the voting rights bill has been stopped in the evenly split Senate. Republicans criticize the measure as a federal power grab and takeover of the states’ longstanding ability to control their elections.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Biden in March that he risked a “scorched earth” Congress if he backed efforts to end the filibuster.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, said this week that he intends to force a vote on the rule in the new year. Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, two moderates, have spoken out against the move.
“The reason the Democrats want to get rid of the filibuster is they want to admit two new states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and pack the Supreme Court and fundamentally change the structure of America forever,” McConnell said Wednesday. “The filibuster prevents extremism… and I admire and respect Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin for saying they are not changing it.”
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser, Tyler Olsen and the Associated Press contributed to this report