Psaki’s statement was a reaffirmation of the White House’s long-standing position. But it has come at a semi-critical time for the filibuster reform movement. On Sunday, one of the main opponents of eliminating the filibuster, Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), expressed a will to make some changes to the rule, causing a wave of jubilation among progressives who pushed for reform.
The president’s reluctance to go as far as one of his party’s more moderate members puts him at odds with civil rights leaders, labor and social justice activists, as well as a growing number of Democrats inside and outside Congress. Eventually, they say, Biden will have to approach the problem more directly rather than sticking to carefully crafted statements.
“My question is, how can President Biden stay out of the debate when the filibuster prevents him from keeping the promises he made to the American people, how is that possible?” said Aimee Allison, president of She the People, which focuses on promoting women in politics and has joined other progressive groups in the fight for a $ 15 hourly wage. “Sooner or later the administration will have to face systematic filibuster.”
Reverend Al Sharpton has said he “respects” Biden’s views on filibuster, but expects the “outdated” rule to emerge Tuesday at a regular meeting between major advocacy groups. civil rights.
“We cannot get out of this period without legislation,” said Sharpton. “We need to get out of this situation with electoral legislation and police reform, and systematic obstruction is a tangible obstacle to achieving both.
Psaki’s comments did not rule out the possibility that the president would support filibuster reform, simply saying his “preference” was not to do so. And officials from progressive outside groups who have spoken to administration officials about its agenda items and how filibuster complicates them, say the White House has never explicitly said that The filibuster absolutely must remain in place, nor did she say she wanted to. to abolish it completely.
Activists who have met with the White House over filibuster reform have also not been urged to remain silent, even as they step up their lobbying campaigns. Instead, administration officials called on lawyers to give them time to find ways under existing Senate rules to pass a hike in the minimum wage, voting rights, police reform. and other big things Biden promised during the campaign.
When Psaki reiterated Biden’s position on Monday, she pointed to Congress’ ability to pass President Covid’s relief plan without qualifying the obstruction as justification. “Look at what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past six weeks,” she says. “He is about to pass a landmark relief bill that will halve child poverty and create 7 million jobs.”
Psaki added that Biden wants to work on a “bipartisan basis” as the administration pursues an infrastructure package.
But opponents of legislative obstruction were quick to point out that the coronavirus relief bill that would soon hit Biden’s office “was only passed because it was free of obstruction,” as claimed. said Eli Zupnick, spokesperson for the anti-obstruction group Fix our Senate.
Right now, the filibuster debate is “an abstract issue,” Zupnick said. But as bills expanding voting rights and establishing universal gun background checks met a Senate blockade, he predicted the administration’s calculation could change.
“President Biden and the Senate Democrats will quickly face a choice as House bills in the Senate are systematically obstructed,” Zupnick said. “They’re going to have to choose between protecting the filibuster – an outdated and abused Senate rule that President Obama has called Jim Crow’s relic – or making more progress on President Biden’s agenda – they can’t play on them.” two paintings. “
And it’s not just the activists who are pleading. Last week, the two Democratic senators from Minnesota, Tina smith and Amy Klobuchar, said they support the elimination of the filibuster. Hillary Clinton told the Washington Post on Monday that she also believes the party should repeal the rule, more than six months after Barack Obama said it should be ended if Republicans use it to block voting rights legislation.
“I would vote to remove the filibuster,” Clinton said. “I think it has outlived its usefulness.”
Although progressive activists were encouraged by Manchin’s remarks on filibuster reform, they described it as either a “half step” or “a first step” that ultimately will not resolve the Republican obstruction. on Biden’s program. Manchin appeared to endorse a “filibuster” proposal on Sunday, which would allow those who oppose a bill to block it only as long as they remain physically in the Senate. Others have proposed changes to filibuster that would make it applicable to fewer laws rather than eliminating it altogether. Democrats currently lack the votes to abolish filibuster as Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) Have said they will protect the 60-vote threshold.
“What we need from the White House is a plan on how they’re going to deliver on all of these campaign promises – they haven’t made it clear,” said Saru Jayaraman, chairman of One Fair. Wage, a group representing service workers receiving less than the minimum wage.
Opponents of filibusters on and off Capitol Hill see the issue become critical as the Senate undertakes the voting rights review that the House recently passed. No Senate Republican should support the bill, which includes an automatic voter registration mandate, restoration of voting rights for those previously convicted of a crime, and better access to the ballot box.
“The right to vote is not even a campaign platform, frankly there is no future for elections or the Democratic Party without the right to vote,” Jayaraman added. “There are just not 10 Republicans who are going to move on. If the president doesn’t want to move on to filibuster reform, what is it, what are they going to do? ”
Progressive Representative Mondaire Jones (DN.Y.) said he understands why an “institutionalist” like Biden uses “delicate language” when discussing filibuster. The first-year lawmaker was not deterred by the administration’s final comments on Monday, but he pointed out that the president’s approval of the reform could significantly influence suspicious moderate Democrats in the Senate.
“I suspect that one of the few people around the world who can convince Joe Manchin to make changes, if not outright support the repeal of filibuster, is President Biden,” Jones said.
“What President Biden’s press secretary said today was not inconsistent with the conclusion that the filibuster must either be reformed or repealed,” Jones continued. “She was simply expressing the president’s preference; the president also prefers to see his bills adopted.