Durbin: Dems Should Consider Changes To the Filibuster if GOP Senators Block Biden’s Agenda

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says Democrats should consider making changes to the legislative filibuster if Republicans use it to block President Joe Biden‘s agenda.

While Congressional Republicans are signaling their disapproval with Biden’s executive actions since taking office, some Democrats are worried that Republicans will use procedural hurdles to block the new president’s legislative agenda.

Durbin was asked if he would consider scrapping the filibuster during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“Well, I think it gets down to the bottom line here,” Durbin said. “The American people want us to take action. Action on this pandemic. Action on this economy… on a host of other issues.”

He continued, “If this filibuster has now become so common in the Senate that we can’t act — that we just sit their helpless — shame on us. Of course, we should consider a change in the rule under those circumstances.”

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The filibuster is a rule that requires 60 votes to end debate and move to a final vote on legislation. It is commonly used to delay or block legislation.

Additionally, most legislation requires 60-votes to pass in the upper chamber.

With a 50-50 Senate, it could be hard for Democrats to move to vote on and pass Biden’s agenda without changes to the rules.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pressuring Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to pledge to not change the filibuster to allow Democrats to pass legislation with a simple majority, or just 51-votes. 

While Democrats have a nominal majority in the Senate, as Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes, Schumer and McConnell are negotiating a power-sharing agreement that would determine how the Senate operates on a day-to-day basis.

McConnell has tried to leverage the agreement to preserve the filibuster. However, Schumer does not appear to be willing to committing to keeping the filibuster. 

Democrats could change the filibuster if all 50 members of their caucus voted to do so, and Harris would break the tie. However, they would need to win over moderate Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), who has expressed displeasure with the idea.

“I can assure you I will not vote to end the filibuster because that would break the Senate,” Manchin told The New York Times in December. “If you basically do away with the filibuster altogether for legislation, you won’t have the Senate. You’re a glorified House. And I will not do that.”