The host, Don Lemon, pressed him on the issue, asking if protecting the filibuster was more important than protecting voting rights. Biden responded that he wanted to pass the voting rights legislation, but he insisted that he also wanted to make sure that we “bring along not just all the Democrats; we bring along Republicans, who I know — know better. They know better than this. And what I don’t want to do is get wrapped up, right now, in the argument of whether or not this is all about the filibuster. ” We all see how horribly that has ended.
Biden ended the exchange by saying, “The American public, you can’t stop them from voting.” That statement was patently false. You can absolutely erect effective legal barriers to ballot access. Even a cursory reading of American history reveals a long legacy of extremely effective voter suppression and intimidation.
In that interview with CNN, Biden defended the filibuster to the end, saying that the reason to protect it was to avoid throwing the entire Congress “into chaos” and the possibility that “nothing” would ever “get done.”
Three months later, in another CNN town hall, Biden finally said that he was open to “fundamentally” altering the filibuster, but he was cautious and explained why he wanted to avoid fully engaging in the filibuster fight:
“If, in fact, I get myself into, at this moment, the debate on the filibuster, I lose three — at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation — the foreign policy side of the equation.”
Now that Senator Joe Manchin has torpedoed the spending bill, at least for the moment, Biden has finally moved on to voting rights.
The signal this all sends is that protecting voting rights — and therefore the fullness of our democracy — was not the issue, but rather an issue, a lesser issue.