Posts tagged with "President Joe Biden"

Poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans are optimistic after Biden’s first 100 days

May 4, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden completed his first 100 days in office on Thursday, April 29—and the nation now is more optimistic about the coming year, according to findings of a new ABC News/Ipsos poll.

Indeed, nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) are optimistic about the direction of the country, the poll indicated. The research was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News, using Ipsos’ Knowledge Panel.

The last time the country came close to that level of optimism about the coming year was in December 2006 during the administration of President George W. Bush—when 61% said they were optimistic about the direction in which the country was headed, according to previous ABC News/Washington Post polls.

Shortly before the 2016 election catapulted Donald Trump into the Oval Office, only 42% of Americans were optimistic about the future; compared to 52% who were pessimistic.

But there are some warning lights flashing for the White House. Biden is betting on a lofty agenda to maintain momentum and set up Democrats for success in next year’s midterms, while the GOP is hoping that voters perceive an overreach and the president’s policies become an electoral anchor.

Only a slim majority (52%) think the federal government should spend to revitalize the economy, even if it raises taxes—including 80% of Democrats and 54% of Independents. The question of government spending and taxes largely divides Americans, with 47% saying taxes should stay at the same level, even at the expense of the economy—including 78% of Republicans.

After more than a year of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country, roughly one-third of Americans (36%) still remain pessimistic about the country’s future under Biden.

Only about one-quarter of Americans (23%) think the country has become more united since Biden took office. Among this group, an overwhelming 87% give Biden credit. Only 3% assigned credit to Republican leaders in Congress, and 10% said both in the poll.

Among the 28% who said the country is more divided, 6 in 10 think Biden is more responsible for the divisions, compared to 34% who say both Biden and Republicans are culpable for sowing division. Only 6% faulted Republicans.

Nearly half of the country (48%) doesn’t see movement on the question of unity since Biden took office—believing the country is neither more united nor more divided. Views on the polarization of the country during Biden’s early tenure fall along party lines—with 95% of Democrats saying the country is either more united (45%) or the same (50%), and 97% of Republicans saying the nation is more divided (65%) or the same (32%).

Biden, who developed a reputation as a moderate over decades in the Senate, has shifted his policy priorities leftward as president. In his address before a joint session of Congress this week, he outlined unprecedented investments for his core priorities, while standing undeterred by sharp Republican resistance. And the Democratic Party appears united behind him: 90% of Democrats approved of his job performance in the latest  poll.

But uncertainty looms over what will be his next legislative achievement, with Biden’s political capital split between his enormous infrastructure bill and plans for gun control, immigration, education and child care.

A slim majority of respondents (51%)to the new survey think Biden is compromising about the right amount with congressional Republican leaders on the most pressing issues. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans (39%) think Biden is doing too little, and only 9% say he is compromising too much.

Republican leaders are viewed more adversely, however. Two-thirds of Americans view GOP leaders in Congress as doing too little to compromise with Biden. Just over 1 in 5 Americans (22%) believe Republicans are doing about the right amount to compromise, and only 10% think they are doing too much.

Biden, for his part, is outperforming his predecessor on this measure. More than half of the country (56%) thought Trump was doing too little to compromise with Democrats in an ABC News/Washington Post poll from September 2017.

Meanwhile, current Republican leaders in Congress are slightly underperforming their Democratic counterparts in the Trump era, when 60% of Americans said the Democrats weren’t doing enough to compromise with Trump.

Research contact: @abcnews

Going down? Biden commits to cutting U.S. emissions by 50% over next decade

April 23, 2021

On April 22, Earth Day, President Joe Biden signaled his Administration’s intention to set aside four years of retrograde national policy by formally pledging the United States to reducing its carbon emissions by at least half (of 2005 levels) over the next decade, Slate reports.

During the opening of a two-day climate summit of world leaders, announced and virtually hosted by the White House, Biden framed the issue not just as a moral obligation, but an economic opportunity, saying, “The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable, and the cost of inaction keeps mounting,” Biden said from the White House. “This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative— a moment of peril, but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities.”

In 2019—the most recent year for which complete data are available—U.S. emissions came in roughly 13% below 2005 levels, according to the EPA.

To provide another angle on how far the U.S. still needs to go to reduce its carbon footprint, last year, when much the country essentially did nothing at all—drove less, flew less, moved less—U.S. emissions were barely down.

In fact, Slate notes, U.S. emissions are still only projected to be down less than a quarter—roughly 21 %—for the year compared to the 2005 baseline. Even before four years of Trump, America had a lot of work to do to meet its emission targets. When former President Barack Obama signed the United States on to the Paris accord in 2016, the outgoing Obama administration pledged a 28% reduction in emissions levels by 2025.

“Administration officials said they see multiple paths toward achieving their goals, through a combination of federal policies and action by states, companies and other subnational groups,” The Wall Street Journal reports, adding,. “Biden has proposed a $2.3 trillion infrastructure package that includes measures to reduce emissions, such as a proposed standard mandating that the country’s electricity be produced with low-carbon energy sources.”

According to Slate, American climate leadership faces domestic opposition from Republicans, who say that say it’s unfair for the U.S.A. to have to make sometimes difficult cuts, with economic consequences, if other developing nations—most importantly, China—don’t have to do the same.

Research contact: @Slate 

Floyd’s family: Biden says he’s praying Derek Chauvin trial ends with ‘right verdict’

April 21, 2021

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, April 20, that he’s praying for the “right verdict” in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin as the jury continued to deliberate, NBC News reported .

“I’m praying the verdict is the right verdict, which I think it’s overwhelming in my view,” said Biden, suggesting that he was in favor of Chauvin being convicted in some form.

Biden, who spoke briefly to reporters in the Oval Office, added that he wouldn’t have made such a comment if the jury had not been sequestered—implying that he would have withheld his thoughts, if he thought the jury members were able to hear them. Jurors were sequestered after closing arguments Monday.

The president confirmed that he spoke with Floyd’s family by phone and said that he “wanted to know how they’re doing personally [and] talked about personal things.”

Indeed, Philonise Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd, said on NBC’s TODAY show that the president called his family on Monday, April 19.R

Referring to the president, Philonise Floyd said, “He knows how it is to lose a family member, and he knows the process of what we’re going through. So he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, hoping that everything will come out to be OK.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything about it,” Biden said about the phone conversation, “But Philonise said today on television, it was a private conversation because Joe understands what it’s like to go through loss. They’re a good family, and they’re calling for peace and tranquility no matter what that verdict is.”

After closing arguments were delivered by the prosecution and defense teams Monday, Philonise Floyd said he’s “optimistic” about the outcome of the trial against Chauvin.

“Me and my family, we pray about it every day,” Floyd said. “I just feel that in America, if a Black man can’t get justice for this, what can a Black man get justice for?”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden sanctions Russia, expels diplomats over election interference

April 16, 2021

President Joe Biden on Thursday declared that the United States faces a “national emergency” over an array of malign actions from Russia. In retaliation, Biden said he is imposing new sanctions on the Russian government and expelling ten Kremlin diplomats from the United States, Yahoo reports.

The moves are part of an intensifying U.S. campaign to punish Moscow over its attempted interference in the 2020 U.S. election, its occupation of Crimea, and other actions. They are sure to escalate already rising tensions between the two nations and are likely to be met with some Russian reprisal, including the expulsion of U.S. diplomats. The moves also come as Russia has amassed military forces near its border with Ukraine, alarming the international community.

The new penalties also follow a y conversation between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, April 13,, during which Biden proposed the two meet in a third country in the coming months.

Conversely, after four years of fealty toward Putin from former President Donald Trump, President Biden’s  new sanctions are sure to be met with approval by many U.S. lawmakers from both parties, although some are likely to say they do not go far enough. For example, based on the information released by the Administration, there did not appear to be any penalties aimed at stopping the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany, a step a number of Democrats and Republicans have urged.

In a statement, the White House characterized the administration’s actions as intended “to impose costs on Russia for actions by its government and intelligence services against U.S. sovereignty and interests.”

The Treasury Department‘s Office of Foreign Assets Control released information on several of the sanctions. The office said that it “took sweeping action against 16 entities and 16 individuals” who sought to influence the outcome of the election last November under orders from Russian government leaders.

“Treasury will target Russian leaders, officials, intelligence services, and their proxies that attempt to interfere in the U.S. electoral process or subvert U.S. democracy,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “This is the start of a new U.S. campaign against Russian malign behavior.”

With regard to Russia’s actions in Ukraine—where Putin still claims the Crimea region as its own—Yahoo reports that OFAC  has“designated five individuals and three entities” for sanctions. OFAC Director Andrea Gacki said in a statement that the designations would “impose additional costs on Russia for its forceful integration with Crimea and highlight the abuses that have taken place under Russia’s attempted annexation.”

Finally, under the authority of a new executive order signed by Biden on April 15, the Treasury Department announced a series of punitive measures including “the implementation of new prohibitions on certain dealings in Russian sovereign debt, as well as targeted sanctions on technology companies that support the Russian Intelligence Services’ efforts to carry out malicious cyber activities against the United States.”

In a letter notifying Congress of his executive order, Biden wrote that his directive would declare “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States posed by specified harmful foreign activities” of the Russian government.

Biden specifically cited Russia’s efforts to “undermine the conduct of “democratic elections and institutions in the U.S. and its allies, its “malicious cyber-enabled activities,” and its use of “transnational corruption to influence foreign governments.”

Other malign behavior mentioned by Biden included the targeting of dissidents and journalists outside Russia, the undermining of security in areas where the United States. has national security interest, and the violation of international law.

Research contact: @Yahoo

Biden targets ‘ghost guns’ and ‘red flag’ laws in new gun control measures

April 9, 2021

In a Rose Garden speech on March 8, President Joe Biden announced that he would introduce regulations to limit “ghost guns;” and would make it easier for people to flag family members who shouldn’t be allowed to purchase firearms with a series of executive actions taken in the wake of recent mass shootings, NBC News reported.

The actions Biden intends to take are limited—and will still likely face legal opposition from gun rights advocates, who view any efforts to limit access as a violation of the Second Amendment.

The changes come in the wake of shootings in Georgia and Colorado and focus not just on trying to limit mass shootings, but also at reducing other forms of gun violence, such as suicides and domestic violence, Biden said.

“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic and it is an international embarrassment,” Biden said in remarks he made in the Rose Garden. He was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland. A number of Democratic congressional members, gun control advocates, and local officials also attended.

Biden also announced he is nominating David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF.

The White House detailed the planned executive actions, arguing that Biden’s instructions to the Department of Justice will curb access to guns, NBC News said.

Biden directed the DOJ to write rules that will reduce the proliferation of “ghost guns,” homemade firearms often made from parts bought online and that do not have traceable serial numbers. Biden said he wants kits and parts used to make guns to be treated as firearms where the parts have serial numbers and are subject to a background check.

Biden also sought to reduce access to stabilizing braces, which can effectively turn a pistol into a more lethal rifle while not being subject to the same regulations that a rifle of similar size would be. Biden said the alleged shooter in Boulder appears to have used one of these devices.

Finally, he asked the DOJ to publish model “red flag” laws for states to use as guides. Red flag laws allow family members or law enforcement agencies to petition state courts to temporarily block people from obtaining firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others. Biden said states with such red flag laws have seen a reduction in the number of suicides.

Biden directed the DOJ to issue a report on firearms trafficking, which hasn’t been done since 2000. He also will announce support for programs aimed at “reducing gun violence in urban communities through tools other than incarceration,” according to a fact sheet shared by the White House.

The new guidelines are bound to face opposition from both sides of the aisle in Congress, NBC noted.

“The idea is just bizarre to suggest some of the things we are recommending is contrary to the Constitution,” Biden said.

And he has vowed to do more. In a call with reporters Wednesday night, administration officials stressed that Thursday’s actions were just the first step and that Biden would still pursue legislative solutions to gun violence.

“This is an initial set of actions to make progress on President Biden’s gun violence reduction agenda,” one official said. “The administration will be pursuing legislative and executive actions at the same time. You will continue to hear the president call for Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence.”

“The job of any president is to protect the American people, whether Congress acts or not,” Biden said. “I’m going to use all the resources at my disposal to keep the American people safe from gun violence. But there’s much more that Congress can do to help that effort.”

Biden asked Congress to pass legislation already through the House to tighten background checks and reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. He also called again for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; and removed liability protections for gun makers.

Research contact: @NBCNews

 

On the money: Biden says corporate tax hike will pay for infrastructure plan

April 2, 2021

President Joe Biden vowed on March 31 to make companies like Amazon pay their fair share in taxes in order to fund his ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure plan, Raw Story reports, crediting Agence France Presse as a source.

In his speech in Pittsburgh, Biden expressed outrage over the imbalance between taxes paid by the wealthiest corporations and the burden for middle-class workers. He cited a 2019 study, which found that 91 Fortune 500 companies, “the biggest companies in the world, including Amazon … pay not a single, solitary penny of federal income tax.

“That is just wrong.”

“A fireman and a teacher paying 22% and Amazon and 90 other major corporations paying zero in federal taxes? I am going to put an end to that,” the president said.

Biden on Wednesday unveiled the far-reaching plan to shore up the nation’s highways, bridges, and ports; fund telecommunications upgrades; and increase financial backing for research and development to increase the nation’s competitive edge—especially compared to China.

A key source of the financing would come from boosting the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, and cracking down on the use of tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

The package already is drawing condemnation from corporations that balk at reversing the tax cuts signed in late 2017 by then-president Donald Trump, Raw Story says. That measure slashed the corporate rate from 35%— although, with various deductions and loopholes, the average rate companies actually pay was, and remains, much lower.

Companies in the United States pay an average tax rate of just 8% compared to the 16% they paid prior to 2017, according to a recent analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Even if Congress approves Biden’s proposed increase, a corporate tax rate of 28%  still would be the lowest since World War II, with the exception of the past three years.

First enacted in 1909 in the United States, the corporate tax rate got as high as 52% in 1968 before a series of cuts in the 1970s and 1980s, Raw Story notes. .

Among the 37 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States has a relatively high official tax rate after France and Colombia at 32%, and Australia, Mexico and Portugal at 30%.

But the average US rate after deductions trails far behind many advanced economies, according to OECD data.

Amazon’s SVP for Policy and Press Jay Carney defended the company’s use of research and development tax credits on Wednesday, Raw Story said.

“If the R&D Tax Credit is a ‘loophole,’ it’s certainly one Congress strongly intended,” he wrote on Twitter; noting that it had been extended by lawmakers several times since its inception in 1981 and was made permanent by president Barack Obama in 2015.

Biden contended that the corporate tax hike was “not about penalizing anyone. I have nothing against millionaires and billionaires.”

The eight-year investment plan “builds a fairer economy that gives everybody a chance to succeed,” he said, noting it would “create millions of jobs, good-paying

As expected, business groups have sent early signs of their opposition to the Biden plan.

Research contact: @RawStory

Buttigieg asks U.S. Congress for ‘generational investment’ in infrastructure

March 29, 2021

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg urged the U.S. Congress on March 25 to make a “generational investment” to improve the nation’s transit and water systems and address climate change and racial inequities, as Democrats began laying the groundwork to pass sweeping infrastructure proposals that could cost $3 trillion to $4 trillion, reports The New York Times.

Buttigieg’s inaugural testimony before a key House panel highlighted not only the enormous stakes of the Biden administration’s impending pair of infrastructure proposals—which could not only help President Joe Biden deliver on a number of campaign promises and reshape the country’s economic and energy future, but also the hurdles ahead.

According to the Times, Republicans at the hearing grilled Buttigieg over how to pay for the plan and signaled that they would not support any legislation that went much beyond the nation’s roads, bridges, and waterways.

Biden’s proposals envision far more than that: One would address physical infrastructure projects and development, including clean energy and other measures to take on climate change; and the other would make investments in child care, education and caregiving.

In the first news conference of his presidency, Biden confirmed on March 25 that rebuilding “infrastructure, both physical and technological,” was his next major task, saying it was necessary “so that we can compete and create significant numbers of really good-paying jobs.” He mentioned repairing roads and bridges, replacing aging pipes that leach lead into water; and helping the United States close an infrastructure-spending gap with China.

Buttigieg told lawmakers on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that at least $1 trillion was needed in infrastructure improvements to the nation’s roads, highways, bridges and transit systems. He painted such an investment as an opportunity to address climate change, racial justice and competition with China.

“I believe that we have at this moment the best chance in any of our lifetimes to make a generational investment in infrastructure that will help us meet the country’s most pressing challenges today, and create a stronger future for decades to come,” Buttigieg said, adding that the legislation would serve as a sequel to the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief plan approved this month.

He said minorities and low-income Americans bore the brunt of deficient infrastructure. “Across the country, we face a trillion-dollar backlog of needed repairs and improvements, with hundreds of billions of dollars in good projects already in the pipeline,” Buttigieg stated. “We face an imperative to create resilient infrastructure and confront inequities that have devastated communities.”

Buttigieg said the infrastructure overhaul should not be a partisan issue, because transportation affected all Americans. Democrats have professed optimism for a bipartisan package, —particularly after pushing the pandemic relief legislation through both chambers over unanimous Republican opposition—and lawmakers in both parties repeatedly emphasized that infrastructure had traditionally been a source of cooperation.

But early partisan divisions spilled over at the hearing, with Republicans criticizing the size and some of the goals of Biden’s proposals.

Addressing reporters on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats would pursue a bipartisan legislative package but would have to “make a judgment” about how to accomplish more ambitious goals related to addressing climate change and economic inequality that Republicans might not support.

“One of the challenges that we face is we cannot just settle for what we can agree on without recognizing that this has to be a bill for the future,” she said

Reearch contact: @nytimes

Biden names Harris to work with Central America on migration

March 26, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that Vice President Kamala Harris would lead the Administration’s efforts to deter migration to the nation’ssouthwestern border by working to improve conditions in Central America—plunging her into one of the most politically fraught issues facing the White House, The New York Times reported.

The president said he had directed Harris to oversee the Administration’s plans to pump billions of dollars into the ravaged economies of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. She will work with the leaders of Central American governments to bolster the region’s economy in the hopes of reducing the violence and poverty that often have driven families in those countries to seek refuge in the United States.

“While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law,” Vice President Harris said before a White House meeting with top immigration officials. “We also—because we can chew gum and walk at the same time—must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek.”

The announcement underscores the sense of urgency at the border, where the administration has struggled to move thousands of young migrants from detention centers meant for adults into shelters managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. Republicans, who have seized on the images to make a case that President Biden’s immigration agenda is only attracting more people from the region, have vowed to put the issue at the center of their efforts to retake power in Congress next year.

The president, however, has continued to use a pandemic emergency rule to rapidly turn away most migrants at the border. The exception: Even though an appeals court allowed the United States to resume expelling minors. Biden has elected to welcome them into the country, where they must be kept in custody until they can be released to sponsors.

For the vice president, the diplomatic assignment is likely to be challenging. Previous efforts, including one led by Biden when he was vice president, were largely unsuccessful, as critics charged that corrupt leaders there had not effectively spent foreign aid money. In the years since, a majority of the families crossing the border have traveled from Central America,—eeking economic opportunity, safety from gangs and reunions with family members already in the United States.

The effort by Ms. Harris to address the root causes of migration, which can take years, is also unlikely to quickly produce the swift action demanded by Republicans and some Democrats to reduce the overcrowding at the border,the Times said. Representative Henry Cuellar, Democrat of Texas, released photographs this week showing dozens of young migrants lying on mats under foil blankets in crowded pods in a tent facility managed by the Border Patrol in Donna, Texas.

“The administration is struggling between the humane, softer approach as opposed to Trump and they have to calibrate and find that balance in enforcing the laws on the books and still projecting compassion,” Cuellar said after touring an overflow facility managed by the Department of Health and Human Services that was established to move children quickly from the border jails.

As of Monday, more than 4,800 children and teenagers were still stuck in detention cells intended to hold adults for short periods, including more than 3,300 held longer than the maximum 72 hours allowed under federal law, according to government documents obtained by The New York Times. On Tuesday, the number of minors in the border facilities increased to more than 4,960, according to data released on Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security. The largest number of minors held this way under the Trump administration was about 2,600 in June 2019, according to current and former Customs and Border Protection officials.

Harris acknowledged on Wednesday that “no question this is a challenging situation,” but said that she was looking forward to engaging in discussions with leaders of Central American countries.

For Vice President Harris, the diplomatic assignment is one of the first in a portfolio of responsibilities that aides said would expand in the months ahead..

The difficulty of the current task should not be underestimated.

Research contact: @nytimes

Biden condemns ‘skyrocketing’ hate crimes against Asian Americans in wake of deadly shooting spree

March 23, 2021

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris flew to Atlanta on March 19 to personally condemn rising hate crimes against Asian Americans in the wake of the mass shooting in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent, CNN reports.

Biden said hate crimes against Asian Americans have been “skyrocketing” since the coronavirus pandemic began more than a year ago and that the country cannot be silent in the face of the hate and violence.

“Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act,” Biden said, speaking from Emory University in Atlanta.

He said Asian Americans have been “attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed. They’ve been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed.”

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Asian American leaders in the wake of the deadly shooting. They had originally planned to travel to Atlanta to tout the benefits of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package that Biden recently signed into law—but the White House scrapped plans for a rally after the shooting.

“The conversation we had today with the (Asian American and Pacific Islander) leaders, and that we’re hearing all across the country, is that hate and violence often hide in plain sight. It’s often met with silence,” Biden said. “That’s been true throughout our history, but that has to change because our silence is complicity.”

According to CNN, Biden urged Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which he has said would:

  • Expedite the federal government’s response to hate crimes that have risen during the pandemic;
  • Support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting; and
  • Make information on hate crimes more accessible to Asian American communities.

Biden and Harris did not explicitly state that they considered the shootings earlier this week a hate crime. But they noted that whatever the motivation of the shooter, the killings come amid rising hate crimes against Asian Americans in the United States.

“Racism is real in America and it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America and always has been —sexism too,” said Harris, who is America’s first Black and South Asian vice president.

The vice president said: “For the last year, we’ve had people in positions of incredible power scapegoating Asian Americans—people with the biggest pulpits spreading this kind of hate. Ultimately this is about who we are as a nation. This is about how we treat people with dignity and respect.”

Stephanie Cho, the executive director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said former President Donald Trump’s name came up repeatedly during Biden’s hourlong meeting with the group.

Biden acknowledged Trump’s contributions to a rise in hate against Asian Americans, Cho told CNN’s Jeff Zeleny.

As for what Cho hopes to see from the administration, she said: “I’d like to see it be beyond this moment. And that as much as the former president called it the ‘China virus’ and scapegoated Asian Americans and really fueled this racism around Asian Americans, I would like to see the Biden administration come out just as strongly but in support of Asian Americans.”

Biden said he would work as “much as possible” to roll back that rhetoric.

Research contact: @CNN

President Biden comes out in favor of changing Senate filibuster rules

March 18, 2021

President Biden said this week that he supports bringing back a requirement that senators must be present and talking on the floor to block bills, as Democrats explore ways to smooth the path for their policy agenda by revising the legislative filibuster rule, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The comments—made on Tuesday, March 16— marked a shift for Biden, who represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years and previously had said he would prefer to preserve the filibuster rather than get rid of it, as some Democrats have advocated.

“I don’t think you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” President Biden said in an ABC News interview. You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking.”

Asked if that meant he is supporting bringing back the talking filibuster, an idea backed by a growing number of Democratic senators, Biden responded: “I am. That’s what it was supposed to be.”

The president’s remarks came the same day on which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) threatened to grind the Senate to a halt if Democrats make any changes to the filibuster, the Journal reports.

“This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books,” McConnell said in a speech Tuesday. “The Senate would be more like a hundred-car pileup. Nothing moving.”

Democrats are at least two votes shy of the 51 needed to kill off the legislative filibuster—a step that would clear the way for them to pass sweeping legislation on voting rights, immigration, gun regulations and other measures unlikely to attract bipartisan support.

As an alternative, Senate Democrats are exploring a return to traditional talking filibusters, like the one famously depicted by Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The idea was floated recently by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist Democrat, who, like President Biden, has said he is adverse to abolishing the filibuster entirely but open to revisions.

Today, senators can filibuster a bill without talking at all. They don’t even have to show up in the chamber. Now momentum is building to tweak the rules, at least, to make filibustering harder.

Senators don’t have to stand for even one minute to shut down the Senate,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, in a speech on the Senate floor Monday. “All they have to do is threaten it, phone it in, catch a plane, go home from Washington, and come back Monday to see how their filibuster’s doing. ‘Mr. Smith phones it in.’ That wouldn’t have been much of a movie, would it?”

Democrats blame a 1975 rule change that allowed absent senators to count against the 60 votes needed to end debate on a bill and proceed to final passage. They say it made filibusters less costly to the minority.

“What’s the pain?” asked Manchin on Fox News last week.

Manchin’s support for reinstating the talking filibuster isn’t new. In 2011, he was one of 46 Democrats who voted in favor of a proposal by Senator Jeff Merkley (D., Oregon) that would have required senators to take the floor and make remarks to block legislation. No Republicans voted for it, and the measure failed.

Had it passed, it would have allowed the Senate to enter a period of extended debate if a simple majority of senators voted to end debate on a bill. Senators who wanted to block legislation would have had to ensure that at least one of them was on the floor presenting arguments or the majority could move on to final passage with 51 votes.

Merkley said he isn’t wedded to his 2011 approach. “There are many nuances of different ways that it could be done,” he said. “And I’m not ready to say any one way.”

Research contact: @WSJ