Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that she is “undecided” about removing the Senate’s filibuster rule.
Feinstein, 87, the oldest senator, told reporters on Capitol Hill that she has concerns that eliminating the legislative filibuster—which requires a threshold of 60 votes to pass major legislation—could backfire on Democrats when Republicans are back in the majority.
“I would say I’m undecided,” Feinstein said.
A future Republican majority “is a factor, one of the reasons why I’m hesitant,” she said.
The filibuster rule was originally adopted to give the minority party a stronger voice in the Senate and prevent partisan control of the upper chamber by the majority. The rule essentially requires a super-majority threshold, now at 60 votes, to cut off debate in the Senate and bring legislative bills or other measures to a vote.
While a number of Democrats, such as moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), favor keeping the legislative filibuster while far-left progressive groups are pushing for it to be scrapped.
Feinstein’s comments on Wednesday signal a change from September 2020, when she came out in opposition to ending the rule.
“I don’t believe in doing that. I think the filibuster serves a purpose. It is not often used, it’s often less used now than when I first came, and I think it’s part of the Senate that differentiates itself,” she said at the time.
A day earlier, President Joe Biden, who previously served in the Senate, signaled for the first time that he backs changing rather than eliminating the filibuster rule, suggesting that it should be reformed to require lawmakers to talk on the Senate floor to delay the passage of a bill.
“I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster,” Biden said during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “You have to do what it used to be when I first got to the Senate, back in the old days. You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking … so you’ve got to work for the filibuster.”
Asked if he endorses the return of the “talking filibuster,” which has been backed by a number of Democrats, the president said: “I am. That’s what it was supposed to be.
“It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning,” Biden added.
In order to remove the filibuster, Democrats would require the support of every member of their caucus, a tall order in the face of a commitment on the part of some, including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has also voiced opposition in removing the rule.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the Senate floor this week that “chaos” would ensue if Democrats sought to completely remove the filibuster.
“This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The Senate would be more like a 100-car pileup, nothing moving,” McConnell said.
“Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin … to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” he added, saying Republicans would require votes on all parliamentary moves, drastically slowing the pace of business.
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.