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Warren discusses Biden's spending plan, voting rights access

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Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the JFK Federal Building in Boston in 2019. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the JFK Federal Building in Boston in 2019. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Democrats on Capitol Hill now say it doesn't look like they'll be able to get to President Biden's social spending plan before the new year.

But they are trying to make headway on securing voting rights access.

For a closer look, WBUR's Morning Edition host Rupa Shenoy was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.

Interview Highlights

On Democratic senators' shift in focus from passing Biden's "Build Back Better" legislation to passing a voting rights bill

"Voting rights is the single most important thing we can do. Right now, we're watching Republican controlled state legislatures across the country try to figure out how to keep American citizens from voting — or not count those votes. That's just fundamentally wrong, and it is an attack on our democracy.

"We now have a voting rights protection bill, the Freedom to Vote [Act], in the United States Senate. Every single Democrat has signed on to it. So I think it's critically important we get it passed. I want to see us do it, and I want to see us do it right now."

On whether the Senate has its priorities in order

"Well, I'd like to see us walk and chew gum at the same time. And that is, the voting bill is done. There's no more, you know, 'How about this part, how about that part?' So I'd like to see us just go in and vote. Our problem there, of course, is [the] filibuster. And I just remind everyone, 'Hey, we've already created an exception to the filibuster this week.' The Republicans, Mitch McConnell, came to the Democrats and said, 'How about we let you pass this without using the filibuster? We'll create a filibuster exception.' Because the Republicans didn't want to dirty their hands by actually having to raise the debt ceiling.

"On the other hand, they didn't want the government to default on its debt. So we said yes, and did that. I think that protecting our democracy is every bit as important as protecting our economy."

"It has reached a point where I believe this Supreme Court has become a threat to our democracy, and the easiest way to fix that — one that is entirely consistent with the Constitution — is to say, 'We're going to expand the number of justices.' "

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren

On her calls to expand the number of Supreme Court justices, and whether there's congressional support to make it happen

"I think there's growing support. This Supreme Court, with all of these nominees who stood in front of the Congress and the country and said, 'Oh, we're going to abide by rule of law. We're going to respect established law,' has now made clear they are leaning into their extremism. We have seen them indicate that they're willing either to take a big chunk out of Roe v. Wade or overturn it altogether.

"It has reached a point where I believe this Supreme Court has become a threat to our democracy, and the easiest way to fix that — one that is entirely consistent with the Constitution — is to say, 'We're going to expand the number of justices.' It's been done seven times in the past. It needs to be done an eighth time to restore some balance to this court."

On her level of interest in term limits for justices, as suggested by the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court

"It appeals — but it would require an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and we don't have the time for that."

On whether Warren is frustrated by the level of media attention on her spat with Elon Musk

"The world's richest freeloader evidently has a really thin skin. But what really gets me about this back and forth is in 2018 — the year for which we have the latest data — Elon Musk paid zero in federal income taxes. Zero. I think that should be the poster for why it is we need to change our tax laws and make sure that billionaires pay a fair share."

This article was originally published on December 17, 2021.

This segment aired on December 17, 2021.

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