Schumer: Ditching filibuster not ‘off the table’ if Biden, Democrats win

Both Biden and Schumer still hold out hope for bipartisan cooperation

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer are both talking about flipping the Senate. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer are both talking about flipping the Senate. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:02pm

On the day that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers his acceptance speech, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer made clear that eliminating the chamber’s legislative filibuster will be on the table if Democrats sweep into the majority with Biden in November.

“We have a moral imperative to the people of America to get a whole lot done if we get the majority, which, God willing, we will, and keep it in the House, and Biden becomes president, and nothing is off the table,” the New York Democrat said Thursday.

“We will do what it takes to get this done. I’m hopeful, maybe if [President Donald] Trump goes and [Mitch] McConnell is no longer leader, some Republicans might work with us. But we’re going to have to get it done, whether they work with us or not,” he added.

While Schumer did not make an unequivocal declaration about doing away with the Senate’s rule requiring 60 votes to limit debate on legislation and other related procedural motions, he did not shy away from it in an interview with radio host Joe Madison on SiriusXM.

Schumer was asked about the filibuster, officially Senate Rule XXII, in the context of former President Barack Obama deriding it as an impediment to reviving protections of the Voting Rights Act.

“And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster — another Jim Crow relic — in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do,” Obama said last month in Atlanta in his eulogy for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

Biden has recently been open to the idea of eliminating the filibuster, although he clearly would prefer to get enough Republican senators to cross the aisle to support his agenda.

“I just don’t believe you’re going to have this kind of resistance … that we had before,” Biden said in an interview earlier this month for the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. “If in fact they are as obstreperous as is expected, we’d have to get rid of the filibuster, but the filibuster has also saved a lot of bad things from happening too.”

“If there’s no way to move other than getting rid of the filibuster, that’s what we’ll do,” Biden said, although it is clear he would prefer a more bipartisan course.

Biden in that interview predicted the election of five or six new Democratic senators. In the Thursday interview, Schumer said he would hope to have at least four additions to his conference.

“Four seats will almost guarantee us getting in,” Schumer said. “And then we will have a really strong agenda that we have talked about before on getting health care for everybody, dealing with climate, getting racial justice in law enforcement and in the economy, getting the Supreme Court back on track. So many things we have to do.”

The effort by Democrats to flip the Senate has not been the focal point of the largely virtual convention this week, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi did highlight bills blocked by the GOP-led Senate during her speech Wednesday night, and Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto had a prime-time speaking slot Monday.

“This fall, we’ll send Joe Biden to the White House, and we’ll flip the U.S. Senate,” said Cortez Masto, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “With Mitch McConnell out of power and a Democratic majority in the Senate, we will expand voting access and protect voting rights.”