President Biden does not want the Senate to kill the legislative filibuster.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed to RealClearPolitics during a Friday press briefing that the new president remains opposed to abolishing the parliamentary procedure that requires the Senate to meet a 60-vote threshold on most legislation.
“The president’s position hasn’t changed,” Psaki told RCP after dodging the same question on Thursday and as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remain stalled in negotiations over how best to share power in a chamber split 50-50.
The president has weighed in personally on those negotiations, she added, saying that “in conversations with both now-Leader Schumer and Senator McConnell that they need to have their conversations, of course, but he is eager to move his [COVID] rescue plan forward.” What Psaki didn’t say: Whether Biden would urge Democrats to take abolishing the filibuster off the table. They have balked at that request from McConnell so far, showing little interest in giving in to his demands as they take the reins of power.
“Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader. We can get s--- done around here and we ought to be focused on getting stuff done,” Sen. Jon Tester told Politico. “If we don’t, the inmates are going to be running this ship,” the Montana Democrat added.
And Democrats really do want to get big things done. Along with Biden in the White House, they control both chambers of Congress for the first time in more than a decade. Immigration. Climate change. The economy. Those are just some of the areas where they hope to push big-picture policy reforms into law. Republicans see the filibuster as their best tool to slowing much of that agenda should compromises fail. Democrats, meanwhile, say they don’t have concrete plans to get rid of the procedural tool but aren’t prepared to take it off the table. Because of the stakes, the subsequent debate has already been dubbed “the defining battle of Biden’s presidency.”
Psaki hesitated to weigh in on that contentious issue during her second briefing of the new administration. Reporters from both NBC and Politico pressed the newly minted press secretary on the question Thursday.
"I don't think I heard an answer about whether the president supports keeping the filibuster, where he sits on that. Has he talked to Senator Schumer about that?” asked Anita Kumar of Politico.
Responded Psaki: “The president has been clear he wants to work with members of both parties and find bipartisan paths forward. I don’t have any more conversations to read out for you at this point in time."
Pressed again, she added, "I don’t think I have more to add to my answer.”
Biden has defended the traditions of the Senate, where he served for more than three decades. Asked during the campaign if he was open to ending the filibuster to circumvent Republican opposition, he told reporters, “It is going to depend on how obstreperous they become.”
In an interview with the New York Times last year, Biden was asked point-blank about that issue and others: “Speaking of those other candidates, several of them have proposed major structural reforms to our government and to our democracy. These include abolishing the Electoral College, expanding the size of the Supreme Court, setting term limits for justices, abolishing the legislative filibuster. Which, if any of these, do you support?”
His answer was one word: “none.”
When RCP asked about this Times interview specifically, Psaki said, “He has spoken to this many times. His position has not changed.”