Durbin Doubles Down On Call For Filibuster Reform After Biden Support

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks during a news conference with Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill on July 25, 2018. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)
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March 21, 2021 1:30 p.m.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Sunday reiterated his support for reforming the filibuster, days after President Biden came out in support of a “talking filibuster” to make the procedure more painful to carry out for the Senate minority.

Last week, Durbin delivered a floor speech in favor of reforming the filibuster by calling the current usage of the procedural rule a “weapon of mass obstruction” that is “making a mockery of American democracy.” Durbin criticized the filibuster’s “misuse by some senators” to block legislation that Senate Democrats are trying to pass.

Durbin doubled down on his stance on Sunday during an interview on CNN. Pressed on his remarks in 2018 arguing in favor of the filibuster, Durbin rationalized his change of heart by saying that the country is in desperate need to rewrite immigration laws to “stop this mess” of the surge of migrants at the border.

“To do it, we need a bipartisan majority, 60 senators under the current rules. Can we do it? Well, if 10 come forward and join all the Democrats, yes. So, it’s a challenge to my colleagues,” Durbin said. “Make it work. Right now, we know that the 60-vote requirement has stopped the Senate from meaningful activity.”

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Asked about Biden’s support for the reform of the “talking filibuster,” Durbin doubled down on his support for it as he decried the current lack of “personal commitment” to the procedure in the Senate.

“Well, I certainly support the talking filibuster as proof-positive that, if someone cares enough to stop the Senate in its tracks, to say to the Senate, you cannot even consider the measure that is before you, is it too much to ask them to stand at their desk to show that personal commitment?” Durbin said, adding that it’s too easy for senators nowadays to just “phone it in.”

“They call the Cloakroom, the room right off the floor of the Senate chamber, and say, yes, I think I’m going to do a filibuster, stop that bill on the floor. That’s all it takes now,” Durbin said. “And some senators start a filibuster on Friday, go home for the weekend, and come back on Monday to see how they’re doing. That’s unacceptable.”

Durbin said that his plans for bringing up the “talking filibuster” depends on seeing “both sides comes together” by mutually agreeing that “personal commitment” to reforming the procedure is reasonable.

“Right now, there are two or three senators on the Republican side who have to check the box to go forward with the bill. They control the floor of the Senate,” Durbin said. “If they want to control the floor of the Senate, let them stand at their desks and make a speech to show that commitment.”

Durbin’s vocal support of reforming the filibuster comes amid a growing group of Democratic senators pushing for change, with some even saying the filibuster should be abolished altogether.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has been known as a longtime defender of the procedure, on Friday night said she is “open” to changing the way that filibuster rules are used in the Senate.

“Ideally the Senate can reach bipartisan agreement on those issues, as well as on a voting rights bill. But if that proves impossible and Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster by requiring cloture votes, I’m open to changing the way the Senate filibuster rules are used,” she said in a statement issued Friday night.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) — who, like Feinstein, was a signatory to a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Coons’ (D-DE) to preserve the filibuster — also appeared to reverse course in the past week by an signaling openness to changing the procedure, citing the HR1 voting rights package.

Watch Durbin’s remarks below:

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