President Biden on Thursday admitted that his effort to blow up the filibuster and rewrite the nation’s voting laws faced certain defeat, but he pledged to continue fighting.
Mr. Biden, fresh off lobbying senators in-person during a Democratic caucus meeting, said it was unlikely they would heed his call to jettison the filibuster.
“The honest to God answer is I don’t know whether we can get this done,” said the president. “But one thing for certain, like every other major civil rights bill that came along if we miss the first time, we can come back and try it a second time.”
It became clear to Mr. Biden that he didn’t have all 50 Senate Democrats on board with changing the rules. He needed complete unity among his Democrats.
The filibuster, which requires 60 votes to advance most legislation and has been used by Republicans repeatedly to block the Democrats’ overhaul of U.S. election laws.
Mr. Biden said it was necessary to deploy the so-called “nuclear option” and blow up the longstanding rules because of new election laws in GOP-run states, which Democrats disenfranchise Black voters and other minorities.
“We miss this time then the state legislative bodies continue to change the law, not as to who can vote, but who gets to count the vote. It’s about election subversion,” he said. “That’s what makes this so different than anything else we’ve ever done.”
Republicans defend the state laws as measures that secure elections including voter ID laws and restrictions on mail-in ballots. They say the Democrats’ bill would nationalize elections and is designed to give Democrats an edge at the ballot box.
Mr. Biden pledged that he would continue championing federal legislation to abrogate the laws in GOP-run states.
“I don’t know that we can get it done,” said Mr. Biden. “But I know one thing, as long as I have a breath in me, as long as I’m in the White House, as long as I’m engaged at all, I’m going to be fighting to change the way these legislatures have moved.”
Shortly before Mr. Biden with the Democratic caucus to plead his case, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema reasserted her opposition to gutting the filibuster. Ms. Sinema, a moderate Arizona Democrat, argued that to scrap the 60-vote threshold would do little to cure the “disease of division.”
“There is no need for me to restate my long-standing support for the 60 vote threshold to pass legislation,” she said. “Eliminating the 60-vote threshold will simply guarantee that we lose a critical tool that we need to safeguard our democracy.”
Ms. Sinema’s opposition kills any hope Mr. Biden had for blowing up the filibuster as the maneuver would need the support of all 50 Senate Democrats.