Posted on March 26, 2021

Biden Says He Agrees with Obama That Filibuster Is ‘a Relic of the Jim Crow Era’

Donald Judd et al., CNN, March 25, 2021

President Joe Biden said Thursday during the first formal news conference of his presidency that he agreed with former President Barack Obama that the filibuster “was a relic of the Jim Crow era,” but stressed his immediate focus was addressing abuse of the rule.

Asked by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins if he agreed with Obama’s characterization of the controversial procedural tool, which came during the former President’s eulogy last summer for the late Democratic congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, Biden replied, “Yes.”

Pressed on why he hadn’t moved to end the filibuster if that’s the case, the President maintained, “Successful electoral politics is the art of the possible.”

“Let’s figure out how we can get this done and move in the direction of significantly changing the abuse of even the filibuster rule first,” Biden said. “It’s been abused from the time it came into being, by an extreme way in the last 20 years. Let’s deal with the abuse first.”

When Collins noted it sounded like he was moving closer to supporting eliminating the filibuster, which requires a 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation, he responded, “I answered your question.”

The filibuster is a procedural tool that can be used by senators to delay or block a vote on legislation or an appointment. It can be employed to keep a debate going without interruption indefinitely.

The term was popularized during the 1850s, “when it was applied to efforts to hold the Senate floor in order to prevent a vote on a bill,” according to the official Senate website, which also notes, “The record for the longest individual speech goes to South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond, who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.”

Democrats have passed several key bills in the House recently, including voting rights and police reform, but getting legislation through the 50-50 Senate, where some bills require 60 votes to pass, has been an obstacle for them.


Some Democratic senators who have advocated gutting the filibuster expressed resolve to reporters Thursday in response to Biden’s comment that “if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond” the changes he’s advocated.


Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was asked if she was disappointed that Biden didn’t come out in favor of lowering the vote threshold from 60 to 51.

“The President has made clear that he understands the filibuster as it currently stands will keep us from doing the work we were elected to do,” she said. {snip}

Asked if Biden’s agreement with Obama that the filibuster is a Jim Crow relic helps her cause, she responded, “It’s not a question of whether it helps anyone’s cause. It’s a historic fact.”