Joe Biden is refusing to rule out scrapping the Senate filibuster, arguing it remains to be seen how “obstreperous” Republicans will be after President Donald Trump leaves office.
The former vice president, who spent a majority of his nearly 40-year political career in the United States Senate, made the remarks on Monday in an interview with several prominent media outlets. Biden, in particular, claimed that while he had “not supported the elimination of the filibuster” in the past, a wait-and-see approach was needed until it was clear how Republicans would act in the post-Trump era.
“I think it’s gonna depend on how obstreperous [Republicans] become,” the former vice president told reporters, as noted by the Washington Post. Biden clarified that he was not necessarily expressing support in one direction or the other. “But I think you’re going to just have to take a look at it.”
The presumptive Democrat nominee added that he was optimistic that his administration would be able to forge a bipartisan consensus among congressional lawmakers, especially if his party were to win the Senate majority.
“I think I have a pretty good record of being able to pull together Democrats and Republicans,” Biden said, further noting that his long tenure in Congress made him “fairly good at understanding what the limitations of a senator [are] and trying to figure out how you help them.”
Biden’s comments on the topic come as a cadre of Democrat lawmakers are in talks to abolish the filibuster, which requires a three-fifths supermajority—usually 60 votes—to end debate on legislation in the Senate. The proposal, still in the early stages, is contingent upon Democrats winning both the White House and the Senate majority this November.
Even though no definitive agreement has been reached, a surprising number of lawmakers, including moderate Democrats, have expressed openness to either discarding or reforming the filibuster in recent weeks. Most notably, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Chris Coons (D-DE) have floated the idea as a way to prevent Republicans from obstructing Biden’s political agenda, provided the presumptive Democrat nominee wins.
“I will not stand idly by for four years and watch the Biden administration’s initiatives blocked at every turn,” Coons, a top congressional ally of the former vice president, said last month.
Progressive Democrats have argued that the filibuster is undemocratic as it allows a minority of lawmakers—at times even only one lawmaker—to hold up legislation favored by a majority of the Senate’s members. As neither party has held a supermajority within the chamber in recent years, bills without broad bipartisan support have gained little traction.
Some progressives, including Biden’s onetime rival and now potential running mate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) favor scrapping the rule in order to advance controversial legislation on topics such as gun control or abortion. Moderates, on the other hand, have defended the filibuster, claiming the limitation it imposed on majority rule was the “entire premise of the Senate” in the first place.