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WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden on Thursday said he believes the U.S. Senate should make it harder to use a parliamentary maneuver called the filibuster that requires 60 votes to advance most legislation in the 100-seat chamber, saying it is being abused.
At his first official White House news conference, Biden said he was determined to get things done in Congress, and called the longstanding filibuster rule an obstacle to progress that is being abused by senators "in a gigantic way."
Biden's fellow Democrats hold the White House and narrow majorities in both houses of Congress for the first time in a decade, and liberals are increasingly urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to scrap the filibuster.
With Republicans holding 50 seats in the Senate, the 60-vote threshold to move forward with most legislation may make it difficult for Biden to achieve key legislative objectives.
Democrats worry that with the filibuster in place, Republicans can block policy goals including bolstering voting rights, climate change, gun control and immigration.
Biden said he favored a return to what is called the "talking filibuster" - a tradition from decades ago that required senators to occupy the floor and make their case against legislation if they opposed it.
"It used to be that you had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed, and - guess what - people got tired of talking," Biden said.
"I strongly support moving in that direction, in addition to having an open mind about dealing with certain things that are elemental to the direction of our democracy like the right to vote," Biden added.
Biden added that "if there's complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we will have to go beyond what I'm talking about."
The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, has said his party would adopt a "completely scorched-earth" response if Democrats were to eliminate the filibuster.
Biden said he agreed with former President Barack Obama that the filibuster is a relic of the Jim Crow era, when laws were adopted by some states to restrict the rights of Black people. These laws remained on the books until the mid-20th century.
"It's been abused from the time it came into being," Biden said of the filibuster, but "in an extreme way in the last 20 years. Let's eliminate the abuse first."
Democrats do not have the votes, currently, to fully abolish the filibuster. At least two moderate Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, oppose ditching the 60-vote threshold, and some others have been quoted as resisting the change as well. REUTERS