WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden indicated he’d support ending the filibuster rule in the Senate to address the debt ceiling and voting-rights legislation — and possibly other items — after Republican members of the chamber used that mechanism to block bills on the two issues this month.
The debt-ceiling 60-vote requirement is absurd, Biden said when asked about the filibuster — which requires 60 votes to cut off debate — at a CNN town hall on Thursday in Baltimore.
He spoke two weeks after Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell vowed that Republicans won’t again deliver the votes needed to allow Democrats to enact a debt-ceiling hike. They did so earlier this month for a temporary increase designed to tide the Treasury Department over to early December.
“If this gets pulled again, I think you’re going to see an awful lot of Democrats be ready to say, ‘Not me, I’m not doing that again, we’re going to end the filibuster,’” Biden said. “There’s certain things that are just sacred rights. One’s a sacred obligation that we’re never going to renege on a debt.”
Republicans have called on Democrats to address the debt ceiling using the same involved reconciliation procedure that they used for the March pandemic-relief bill and are now using for a sweeping social-spending bill. Democrats have rejected that approach, highlighting that Republicans have joint responsibility for the debt and that the debt ceiling has traditionally been dealt with on a bipartisan basis.
Biden recognized the challenge in addressing the filibuster rule.
“It’s still as difficult to end the filibuster beyond that, that’s another issue.”
The president said that along with the government being responsible for its debts, “Voting rights are equally as consequential,” speaking a day after GOP senators blocked a bill with features including creating an automatic voter registration system through each state’s motor vehicle agency.
The legislation is designed to counter a number of new voting restrictions emerging from Republican-led state legislatures, which Democrats say are intended to curtail participation by minorities and poorer Americans. Republicans counter that the laws are necessary to protect against voter fraud.
The bill, The Freedom to Vote Act, was an attempt at a compromise among Democrats, after a much broader voter access bill was blocked by Republicans in June and again in August.
Asked whether he would entertain killing the filibuster rule on voting rights, Biden added, “And maybe more.”