Biden Holds the Door Open for Senate Changes to Push the Agenda

Biden holds the door open for Senate changes to push the agenda
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference. Photo by Evan Vucci

Biden holds the door open for Senate changes. In his first press conference on Thursday, he left the door open to endorsing structural reforms in Senate protocol to drive core aspects of his platform, such as immigration and voting rights, through Republican resistance.

Even as his administration deals with the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic harm, Biden cannot deliver on a slew of big promises amid a razor-thin Senate majority. He hinted that amendments to Senate rules that would allow bills to pass with fewer votes could be needed for him to meet any of those objectives.

“If there’s complete lockdown and chaos, because of the filibuster, then we’re going to have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” he said.

Biden initially supported changing – but not eliminating – the arcane procedural tactic. But he then showed that, at least on those topics, he would go claiming that Republicans were “abusing” the filibuster which takes 60 votes to pass legislation in the Senate.

“I want to get things done. I want to get them done consistent with what we promised the American people,” Biden said. “I am going to say something outrageous: I have never been particularly poor at calculating how to get things done in the United States Senate.”

At his own press conference on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer refused to comment on filibuster changes, saying instead that “everything, everything is on the table.”

At the press conference, Biden’s political career was also mentioned. For the first time, the 78-year-old president said, “My plan is to run for reelection, that is my expectation.” But he clarified that his priority was the here and now, not a future election.

“I am going to deal with all of those problems,” he pledged.

During the conference, the President was repeatedly questioned on the situation at the US-Mexico border, where a growing influx of young people has overloaded the government’s detention facilities. Biden pledged to increase media access to the camps and change the nation’s immigration system and U.S. help to strengthen conditions in the migrants’ home countries.

“I can’t guarantee that we’re going to solve everything, but I can guarantee that we’re going to make it better,” he said.

The President also commented on the situation in North Korea.

“There will be responses if they choose to escalate,” he said. “We will respond accordingly. But I’m also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the result of denuclearization.”

In terms of Afghanistan, Biden committed to removing US troops from the region, but expressed concerns about reaching the May 1 deadline set by an agreement signed by Trump.

“We will leave,” he said. “The question is when we will leave.” He also said that he doesn’t think troops would still be present there in 2022.

Biden also said that China’s aspiration to become the world’s richest and most influential country would “not happen on my watch.”

The Biden’s press conference was held in far from what Americans are used to seeing on such occasions. In the East Room, the president stood behind a podium amid a background of flags. The White House reduced attendance and set only 30 socially separated chairs for journalists out in the large space.

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