“My question was simple. Democrats don’t have a path to 60 seats in the Senate. So how will Biden keep his agenda from dying at the hands of the filibuster? Would he support filibuster reform, or elimination? Biden’s reply was his campaign in miniature, reflecting both the instincts that have made him successful and the caution that has frustrated many on the left.
“I think it’s going to depend on how obstreperous they” — meaning Republicans — “become, and if they become that way,” he replied. “I have not supported the elimination of the filibuster because it has been used as often to protect rights I care about as the other way around. But you’re going to have to take a look at it.”
That answer, which reflected a genuine shift in Biden’s rhetoric on the issue, made some headlines. But it wasn’t the end of Biden’s argument. “I’ll say something outrageous,” he continued. “I think I have a pretty good record of pulling together Democrats and Republicans.” He went on to say many Senate Republicans will feel “a bit liberated” by Trump’s defeat and may be ready to work with Democrats on issues like infrastructure and racial inequality.
“In my career, I have never expected a foreign leader or a member of Congress to appear in the second-edition Profiles in Courage,” Biden said. “But I’m fairly good at understanding the limitations for a senator or leader and helping them navigate around to what they want to do from what they’re having political trouble doing. I have been successful in helping my Republican friends find rationales to help me get what I’m pushing over the top.”
Tucked into this argument is Biden’s view of the Republican Party: He sees it not as a monolith but as a coalition. Some members of that coalition love Trump and will grieve his defeat. They’re not going to work with Biden, and he doesn’t expect to work with them. But some Senate Republicans dislike Trump, regret what their party has become, and are looking for redemption. What they need is a Democrat they can work with — a Democrat who doesn’t antagonize their voters and won’t rub their noses in their loss. What they need, Biden thinks, is Biden.”