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Biden Threatens to Eliminate Filibuster If Republicans Prove Uncooperative

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, July 9, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden expressed on Monday a willingness to eliminate the Senate’s practice of imposing a 60-vote threshold for most legislation, contingent upon Republicans’ behavior.

“I think it’s gonna depend on how obstreperous they become,” he said of Senate Republicans in a wide-ranging Zoom interview with reporters, the Washington Post reported. “I have not supported the elimination of the filibuster because it’s been used as often … the other way around [for Republicans’ benefit], but I think you have to just take a look at it.” 

The statement of support for measures that would allow legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority vote marks a positional shift from the former vice president who spent more than 35 years as a senator and opposed ending the filibuster as recently as February.

President Trump expressed a desire to end the filibuster in a 2017 tweet saying,“With the ridiculous Filibuster Rule in the Senate, Republicans need 60 votes to pass legislation, rather than 51. Can’t get votes, END NOW!”

The former vice president said he hopes that with Trump out of office, Republicans will be willing to work with him on items like infrastructure. He also expressed optimism that the Democrats may grow to control 55 Senate seats in November.

Biden believes he has a “pretty good record of being able to pull together Democrats and Republicans” and that he has been “fairly good” at understanding senators’ limitations and trying to figure out how you can help them help you without endangering their political position.

Biden spoke with reporters about a number of topics, including his four-part economic program “Build Back Better,” as well as voter suppression, child-care and racial tensions. 

He took jabs at President Trump, arguing that Trump has done “enormous damage to the United States” and he is “the exact worst president we could have at this moment.” 

Biden described a “battle for the soul of the country” and said Americans have “had their blinders taken off” by the death of George Floyd.

“I do think we’ve reached the point where one of those trite phrases everybody uses . . . it’s a real inflection point in American history and I don’t believe it’s unlike what [President Franklin] Roosevelt [faced],” he said.

“I think we have an enormous opportunity to make some really systemic changes related to racism but institutional ways in which we handle things and I think the country is really ready.”

Biden joins 18 of the original 26 democratic presidential candidates who said they would support or be open to the idea of ending the filibuster, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang who expressed full support, and Senators Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), Bernie Sanders (D., Vt.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D., Texas) who said they would be open to the idea.

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