Biden to meet with Senate Dems to push filibuster power grab

Biden to meet with Senate Dems to push filibuster power grab

President Biden will meet with Senate Democrats Thursday in an effort get his party on the same page about their push to pass sweeping federal election reform – and alter or eliminate the chamber’s 60-vote legislative filibuster in the process.

Biden is scheduled to meet with senators around 1:00 p.m., hours after the House is expected to approve the voting reform package and send it to the Senate for debate.

On Wednesday, the White House said that the president will “discuss the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections against un-American attacks based on the Big Lie, and to again underline that doing so requires changing the rules of the Senate to make the institution work again.” 

The White House also revealed that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will “be working the phone over the next several days” to push for full party support. 

After defending the filibuster for at least two decades, Biden changed his tune this week, saying there was “no option” but to change Senate rules to move legislation more easily through the 50-50 chamber.

President Joe Biden
Biden is scheduled to meet with senators around 1:00 p.m Thursday.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

“The threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote, let the majority prevail,” he said during a Tuesday speech in Atlanta.  “And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change the Senate rules, including getting rid of the filibuster for this.”

Sources told The Post that Biden will attempt to ramp up pressure on moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have repeatedly voiced their opposition to getting rid of the filibuster, with Manchin insisting that any rule changes need buy-in from both parties.

Joe Manchin
The Build Back Better act is largely being held up due to Sen. Manchin’s (and Sen. Sinema’s) opposition.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Manchin admitted the Senate needs “some good rules changes,” but added that “getting rid of the filibuster does not make it work better.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has vowed to push a vote on the rule changes by Jan. 17. However, in the face of Manchin and Sinema’s opposition, it is possible that Schumer could forgo a vote that is certain to fail and content himself with a lengthy and bitter debate on the issue.

Democrats are seeking to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which Republicans have described as an unconstitutional federalization of the election system.

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has joined Manchin in opposing the idea of getting rid of the filibuster.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed the president’s Atlanta speech Wednesday, calling Biden’s remarks “profoundly unpresidential.” 

McConnell pointed out that while the president and Democrats have repeatedly criticized Georgia’s strict voting laws, it is harder to vote early in Democratic-led states like New York and Delaware. 

In Georgia early voting starts on the fourth Monday before any election or runoff, while New York and Delaware only allow for 10 days of early voting. Additionally, Delaware did not allow early voting until this year.

McConnell also recalled Biden’s inaugural address last January, in which the newly sworn-in president said “every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.”

“That was just 12 months ago. But yesterday, he poured a giant can of gasoline on the fire,” said McConnell, adding that Biden’s Georgia speech had claimed “anyone who opposes smashing the Senate and letting Democrats rewrite election law is a domestic ‘enemy’ and a traitor like Jefferson Davis.”

Later Wednesday, the president stopped by the Capitol to pay his respects to the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda. 

After doing so, Biden went into McConnell’s office and spoke with the staff. While it is unclear what the president conveyed, he later assured the press: “I like Mitch McConnell. He’s a friend.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has vowed to push a vote on the rule changes by Jan. 17

Thursday’s meeting comes just three months after Biden made a similar trip to the Hill to urge the House to vote on his Build Back Better plan and a bipartisan infrastructure bill simultaneously. Divisions among Democrats led the bills to languish for weeks before the $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure passed in early November. 

The House passed the $2 trillion Build Back Better weeks later, but that measure is stalled in the Senate due in large part to Manchin and Sinema’s opposition.

During his first year in office, Biden has not been shy about meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol to make sure his agenda is pushed forward – sitting down with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle multiple times.

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