US President Joe Biden said he supports changing the Senate filibuster rule so as to make it easier for the chamber to pass legislation upholding Americans’ right to vote.
The filibuster is a rule in the US Senate that requires 60 votes for virtually every piece of legislation to advance, reports xinhua news agency.
Biden, a veteran US senator who during his 36 years serving in the chamber has been a stalwart supporter of its traditions, gave what was perhaps his clearest affirmation of support for a change in the filibuster, making clear his inclination toward abandoning the rule in the legislative process of voting rights bills.
Claiming that the filibuster has been “weaponised and abused”, the President said: “I support changing the Senate rules whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights. When it comes to protecting majority rule in America, the majority should rule in the US Senate.”
To underscore the urgency of protecting Americans’ right to vote, Biden said at least 19 states have enacted a total of 34 pieces of legislation that would make it harder for people to cast their ballot.
The President’s remarks came at a time when two major pieces of voting rights legislation were stalled in the Senate, where 50 Republicans acted in lockstep to oppose them, making it impossible for the bills to overcome the 60-vote threshold for passage.
The bills at issue are the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the federal government’s authority to scrutinize state voting laws to prevent discrimination, and the Freedom to Vote Act, which would regulate mail-in voting, early voting and other election-related procedures on the national level.
Biden in his speech urged the Senate to pass the two bills.
Democratic senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have been adamant in their opposition to changing the filibuster, making the prospect of a shift in the rule — which requires all 50 Democratic senators to get onboard — uncertain at best.
A full elimination of the filibuster is not what’s sought by the majority of Democrats, who instead are mulling more limited measures such as a “carveout” that would exempt voting rights legislation from needing 60 votes, or moving to what’s known as the talking filibuster, where opponents may delay the vote on a bill for as long as they can hold the floor but the legislation would still pass by a simple majority in the end.
Manchin has yet to endorse any change proposed so far by his colleagues regarding the filibuster.
“We need some good rules changes to make the place work better. But getting rid of the filibuster doesn’t make it work better,” Manchin told reporters on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to take up the voting rights legislation this week and bring up a rules change vote by January 17 in the event that Republicans block the election bills.
In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday warned of retaliation from the Republicans if Democrats were to force the rules change.