President Biden on Wednesday defended his refusal to eliminate or reform the filibuster, saying tweaks would create chaos in Congress, while also slamming it as a “relic of Jim Crow.”
“There is no reason to protect it other than you are going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done,” Mr. Biden said during a CNN town hall in Cincinnati.
Civil rights leaders have criticized Mr. Biden for falling short of meeting their demands to change the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to proceed on most legislation instead of a simple majority. The filibuster has made it impossible for Democrats to advance two voting-rights bills because their slim majority in the Senate isn’t enough to overcome Republican opposition.
Last week, the president gave a fiery speech against voter suppression but disappointed Black leaders by not calling for an end to the filibuster. He is facing increasing pressure from the social-justice community to take a more aggressive stance on eliminating the filibuster.
Mr. Biden said if moves to end the filibuster, it shifts the argument from one about civil rights to one about the filibuster. He added that Republicans would seize on that change and reframe the debate to be about the filibuster.
His comments came as he urged Congress to pass voting rights legislation named after the late Rep. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat.
“I want to see the United States Congress pass the John Lewis Act, but I want to make sure we not only bring all the Democrats, but we bring along the Republicans who I know, know better,” he said. “And I don’t want to get wrapped up in the argument that this is all about the filibuster.”