3 things you might have missed at Biden’s first press conference

This piece was originally published in the March 25, 2021 edition of CAP Action’s newsletter, the Progress Report. Subscribe to the Progress Report here.

Photo by Matthew Bornhorst on Unsplash

“I want to get things done. I want to get them done consistent with what we promised the American people.”

President Biden today on filibuster reform and the urgency of getting his agenda through the Senate

The contrast is staggering.

Watch and share this video on Twitter and Facebook to get the facts out:

IN THE NEWS

  • President Biden held his first press conference at the White House today. In case you missed it, here are a few of the major topics he covered, starting with some exciting news on the vaccine front.
  • Vaccinations: To kick things off, President Biden announced that he would be increasing his administration’s original goal of administering 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days, which he already surpassed over a month ahead of schedule. His new goal for his first hundred days? To have administered 200 million doses, which is double what he initially announced. “That’s right. 200 million shots in 100 days,” Biden said. “I know it’s ambitious…I believe we can do it.”
  • Infrastructure: Now that the American Rescue Plan has been signed into law, President Biden’s next major policy focus is infrastructure. Despite getting zero questions from reporters on what is set to be one of the most significant pieces of legislation on deck for 2021, Biden made sure to bring it up himself and update the country as to what he’d like to get done on infrastructure.
  • As he often does, Biden emphasized the value of and need for unions, and how centering infrastructure around union workers is critical. He also notably made the connection between addressing the climate crisis and creating new, union jobs that will modernize America’s crumbling infrastructure.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • Biden made some under-the-radar news today that could have a major impact on the fate of his legislative agenda. But first, for those of us who aren’t versed in Senate procedure, here’s a quick primer on the filibuster. In order to vote on a bill, the Senate first has to vote to begin debate and then later to end debate on the bill. As it stands now, both beginning and ending debate on a bill require 60 votes.
  • That means that if the Senate wanted to hold an up-or-down, simple majority vote on, say, the Equality Act, just a small minority of senators — for our purposes, let’s say Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and a few of their like-minded colleagues — can simply call down to the Senate floor and let the staff know they won’t be voting to end debate.
  • That’s the filibuster. In our scenario, those senators would end any hope of the Equality Act ever making it to President Biden’s desk. In summary: The filibuster subverts the will of the people and keeps progress from being made in Washington. For more on the filibuster, check out this great explainer from our friends at Indivisible.
  • At his press conference today, Biden told reporters that he supports changing the current rule back to a “talking filibuster,” which you may be familiar with from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. (As Senator Durbin joked recently, the current state of affairs is more like “Mr. Smith phones it in.”) Biden rightly pointed out that in recent decades, the filibuster is “being abused in a gigantic way” by McConnell and his allies in the Senate to stop progressive legislative priorities from even seeing a vote in the Senate. He said he agrees with former President Obama that it’s a relic of the Jim Crow era.
  • The change Biden proposed today would force senators to actually stand and speak on the Senate floor, without interruption, in order to stall a vote on a bill — a performance that inherently will come to a conclusion after a number of hours. This would mean no more Ted Cruzes or Josh Hawleys phoning in their opposition to a vote and effortlessly clogging up the works of Biden’s legislative priorities.
  • But Biden didn’t stop there. “If there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond” simply returning to a modified version, he said — signaling that he may be open to joining a growing list of senators who say we should eliminate the archaic rule altogether.
  • Biden’s stance on the filibuster is a sign that he understands the urgency of getting his agenda passed and putting the country on the right track — and that we shouldn’t let McConnell and his allies get in the way of delivering for the American people.

WHAT WE’RE READING (AND LISTENING TO)

This piece was originally published in the March 25, 2021 edition of CAP Action’s newsletter, the Progress Report. Subscribe to the Progress Report here.

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