Joe Biden dismissed the idea of eliminating the filibuster during a CNN town hall in Cincinnati on Wednesday night, warning that doing so would ‘throw the entire Congress into chaos’ where ‘nothing at all would get done.’
Speaking at an invite-only event moderated by Don Lemon, Biden was accused by a first year law student of ‘doing little to actually stop’ Republican ‘assaults’ on voting rights legislation after a GOP filibuster killed Democrats’ push to pass Biden’s For The People Act.
‘If these efforts are really the most dangerous in out history,’ he asked, citing Biden’s own words, ‘Isn’t it logical to get rid of the filibuster so we can protect our democracy and secure the right to vote?’
At one point Lemon joined in pressing the president, to which he snapped ‘Let me finish my answer.’
Biden previously signaled he may be open to nixing the filibuster when Democrats failed to win a super majority to pass his bill to strengthening voting rights, which ended with a 50-50 vote – 10 votes shy of overcoming a Republican filibuster.
Democrats would need to win a 60-vote ‘super majority’ to overcome Republican efforts to indefinitely stall the bill via a filibuster.
Biden said eliminating the filibuster would throw Congress into ‘chaos’ and distract from passing other items on Democrats’ agenda
A recent college graduate asked Biden why he was not doing more to advance his agenda on voting rights – quoting the president calling Republicans’ stalling tactics a ‘threat’
CNN host Don Lemon joined in pressing Biden on his filibuster stance
Biden’s ongoing battle to pass a landmark $3.5trillion infrastructure bill has faced fierce opposition from Republicans, who have dismissed it as a ‘spending spree.’
A Senate vote on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill failed as expected on Wednesday, with many GOP senators voicing concerns over voting on legislation they haven’t seen and fearing it could pave the way to larger spending packages on Biden’s agenda.
Up against the threat of another filibuster, Democrats have discussed passing Biden’s agenda via budget reconciliation, which would allow them to get by on a party-line vote. The Wednesday vote failed 49-51.
At the Wednesday event Biden conceded that the ‘abuse’ of the filibuster was ‘overwhelming.’
But instead of ending it, Biden suggested bringing back the rigorous standards for conducting a filibuster that were common when he was first elected nearly 50 years ago.
‘If you were to filibuster, you had to stand on the floor and hold the floor,’ Biden said. ‘There were significantly fewer filibusters in those days – in the middle of the Civil Rights movement.’
Lemon asked Biden if he valued protecting the filibuster more than securing voting rights for historically disenfranchised Americans
Biden said he would be open to reforming the filibuster, citing the rigorous standards in place for the maneuver when he first entered office decades ago
Lemon questioned whether Biden weighed protecting the filibuster higher than protecting voting rights.
‘This is important for people who look like me,’ the CNN host said.
Biden suggested the Senate shift its focus to passing bipartisan voting rights legislation along with Republicans who ‘know better than this.’
‘What I don’t want to do, is get wrapped up right now in the argument over whether or not this is all about the filibuster,’ he said.
A Democrat-led effort to pass infrastructure legislation failed a test vote on Wednesday when they failed to get any Senate Republicans to join them – ending up shy of the majority they would need to overcome a GOP filibuster
He continued, ‘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.’
The president maintained he agreed with his former boss Barack Obama that the filibuster was a ‘relic of the Jim Crow era’ – but warned that efforts to get rid of it would preoccupy time that could be used on other legislation.
‘Wouldn’t my friends on the other side love to have a debate about the filibuster instead of passing the Recovery Act?’ he said, before pivoting to Democrats’ recent victory in passing a child tax credit.
At another point in the evening Biden told his small audience that the January 6th MAGA riot was ‘not a peaceful march’ and urged Democrats and Republicans to unite on the House select committee to investigate the Capitol Hill riot.
‘I don’t care if you think I’m Satan reincarnated,’ Biden said. ‘The fact is you can’t look at that television and say nothing happened on the 6th. You can’t listen to people who say this was a peaceful march.’
His comments came after Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two Republicans selected by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the committee because of their ties to former President Donald Trump.
In response, McCarthy pulled all five Republican members from the committee, calling the investigation a ‘sham.’
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy pulled all five of his nominees to the special committee investigating the January 6th MAGA riot after Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of them
An Associated Press photographer is shown being assaulted by rioters at the Capitol
‘If Republicans and Democrats can’t come together to investigate the biggest attack on our Capitol in 200 years, what makes you think that they can come together on anything?’ asked CNN’s Don Lemon.
Biden answered that the parties needed to come together as a show that democracy can triumph in the 21st century.
The president said that during meetings with world leaders this year, many expressed their concerns that America is too divided to be effective.
He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping had told him that autocracies, not democracies, were the way of the future.
It was not made clear when the world leaders spoke to Biden about this.
‘They really believe that,’ Biden said. ‘They believe that things are moving so rapidly, that you can’t put together a nation that is divided to get a consensus on acting quickly. Democracy has to stand up and get something done.’
A restauranteur confronted Biden about issues closer to home when he asked the president how he planned to resolve the labor crisis unfolding across America.
Ohio resident John Lanni owns Thunderdome Restaurant Group which operates 39 restaurants across the country. He said he, like thousands of others, can’t find staff willing to take restaurant jobs now.
Biden suggested the restauranteur pay staff more money.
Lanni, who says he already pays staff $15-an-hour, said: ‘The entire industry, amongst other industries, continues to struggle to find employees. How do you and the Biden administration plan to incentivize those that haven’t returned to work yet? Hiring is our top priority right now.’
Ohio restauranteur confronted Biden on how he plans to resolve the labor crisis
Biden’s town hall took place in a half-empty auditorium at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati
In response, Biden seemed to wipe his hands of the issue, claiming the shortage wasn’t down to increased benefits but people no longer wanting to work in restaurants.
Even if his benefits contributed to the problem, he said they were ending soon.
‘My gut tells me that… there’s a lot of people looking to change their occupation. But I could be wrong. I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things and there’s a shortage of employees. People are looking to make more money and to bargain.
‘I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while. People being seven, $8 an hour plus tips, that’s – I think, John, you’re going to be finding 15 bucks an hour or more now,’ he said.
He then even conceded that the expanded benefits might have contributed to the shortage but said ‘they’re ending now’.
‘Let’s assume it did, but it’s coming to an end,’ the President said.
Lanni said later Biden ‘didn’t answer the question’ and other restaurant owners said the response showed the President does not understand the labor crisis unfolding across his country.