The Corner

Politics & Policy

Biden’s Lies about the Filibuster Are Brazen Beyond Belief

Then–president-elect Joe Biden speaks to reporters in New Castle, Del., December 15, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Joe Biden’s lies about his position on the legislative filibuster are so audacious, so brazen, so extraordinarily disingenuous that it is hard to know where to begin. Having supported the provision for nearly five decades, Biden now says that he considers it a “relic of Jim Crow,” that he was forced to reconsider its utility by the abuse that took place “last year” and “in the last 20 years,” and that he has no “expertise, in what the parliamentary rules and how to get there are.” No journalist who can look themselves in the mirror should repeat this without laughter, derision, or disbelief.

For half a century, Biden was one of the most emphatic defenders of the filibuster in the history of the United States. So passionate about it has he been, in fact, that he liked to shout at people who disagreed with him. To Biden, the filibuster was the Senate, if not the country, and, far from being a relic of Jim Crow, it was baked into the system from the outset. “The Framers,” Biden contended, “created the Senate as a unique legislative body designed to protect against the excesses of any temporary majority,” and those who so much as contemplated the “naked power grab” that abolition would represent did not understand that they were merely “temporary custodians” of that body. To take the “nuclear option,” Biden argued, would be “catastrophic.” It would destroy “America’s sense of fair play.” It would sully “the one thing this country stands for: Not tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field.” Worse yet, to abolish the filibuster with 50 votes, would:

send a terrible message about the malleability of Senate rules. No longer would they be the framework that each party works within. I’ve been in the Senate for a long time, and there are plenty of times I would have loved to change this rule or that rule to pass a bill or to confirm a nominee I felt strongly about. But I didn’t, and it was understood that the option of doing so just wasn’t on the table. You fought political battles; you fought hard; but you fought them within the strictures and requirements of the Senate rules. Despite the short-term pain, that understanding has served both parties well, and provided long-term gain.

In the same speech, Biden displayed a mastery of the Senate rules in this area, and even went so far as to criticize himself for his role in changing them back in 1975. “No expertise in what the parliamentary rules and how to get there are”? Give me a break.

There is simply no way — no way whatsoever — of squaring the truth with what Biden said yesterday. Biden complained about the last “20 years.” But he made what is perhaps the best speech ever made in defense of the filibuster in 2005, and reiterated its thesis while running for president in 2020. He complained about the number of times the tool was used “last year.” But “last year” it was his own party that was using it, and, even after it had done so, Biden was happy to confirm his support.

There is no nicer way of putting it than to say that Joe Biden is lying. This is not a “both sides” issue, nor a “development” that should be reported at face value. It is a falsehood, distortion, a deception. Pretty much every single Democrat in the Senate is trying to pull the same trick — trying, that is, to pretend that Mitch McConnell, who last used the filibuster in 2014, is the reason that they have changed their mind on this since 2017 — but nobody’s reasoning is less obviously fake than Biden’s. The reporting on this should reflect that. The president hasn’t “evolved.” He’s a liar. The press used to care about that sort of thing.

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