Democrats’ Filibuster Threats Aren’t About Principle, Just Raw Power
‘If our Democratic colleagues really believe what they’re saying, did they themselves use a racist tool against Senator Scott’s police reform bill last year? Did they use a racist relic when they delayed the CARES Act or blocked legislation to protect unborn babies who can feel pain? […] Or is our colleagues’ story that the filibuster was not an offensive relic as recently as last summer, but magically became an offensive relic the instant Democrats came to have a majority?’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the legislative filibuster:
“While House Democrats try to overturn a certified election result from last November, some Senate Democrats are agitating to break Senate rules to ram through a partisan rewrite of all 50 states’ election laws.
“The 60-vote threshold is the reason why huge pillars of domestic policy don’t oscillate back and forth every time a different party wins the majority.
“Think of something like the Mexico City Policy, the executive-branch policy about funding overseas abortions. It has flipped back and forth every single time the White House has changed party since the 1980s. Republican presidents issue the memo. Democratic presidents retract it.
“The legislative filibuster is what keeps the entirety of federal law from working that way.
“For a long time, Senators on both sides have recognized the Senate and the country are better off with some stability. Both sides have understood there are no permanent majorities in American politics, so a system that gives both sides a voice benefits everyone in the long run.
“That’s what 33 of our Democratic colleagues said just a few years ago, when they all signed a joint letter insisting that rules protecting debate on legislation be preserved.
“That’s what President Biden believed consistently throughout his long Senate tenure. About 15 years ago, then-Senator Biden said killing the filibuster would be, quote, ‘an example of the arrogance of power.’ He restated his long-held position during the campaign just last year.
“Here’s what my colleague the Democratic Leader said in 2017.
“The ‘legislative filibuster’ is ‘the most important distinction between the Senate and the House… Let’s find a way to further protect the 60-vote rule for legislation.’ End quote.
“The Democratic Leader, less than four years ago.
“And Democrats didn’t just spend the last four years supporting the filibuster; they spent four years using it!
“Senate Democrats used the filibuster to kill Senator Tim Scott’s police reform bill in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“We could have had federal legislation on the books since last summer putting more body cameras on police officers, requiring fuller incident reporting to the FBI, and finally making lynching a federal crime. Among other things. But Democrats stopped it.
“A few months before, they used the filibuster to briefly turn the bipartisan sprint toward the CARES Act into a partisan standoff. The press marveled that Senate Democrats had the gall to block relief — a tactic that helped tank the markets — in order to demand further changes.
“And back in early 2018, Senate Democrats used the filibuster to block government funding and force a brief government shutdown over immigration. One of the Democratic Leader’s first major acts as the leader of his conference was to wield the filibuster to shut down the entire government.
“So the Democratic side just spent four years defending and happily using the same Senate rule that many of our colleagues now attack.
“This reversal isn’t about principle. Just raw power.
“Three years ago, the Assistant Democratic Leader was asked about a Senate majority going ‘nuclear’ and killing the legislative filibuster. Here’s what he said. ‘I can tell you that would be the end of the Senate, as it was originally devised and created, going back to our Founding Fathers.’ End quote.
“Now, he argues the opposite. And I understand our colleague has rotated through several different explanations for his reversal in just the last few days.
“First, our colleague from Illinois indicated he changed his mind because Republicans, and I specifically, had used the filibuster so much in the intervening years.
“Except Republicans were in the majority that whole time. It was Democrats who were using the filibuster, in the minority, in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Not Republicans. So that made no sense whatsoever.
“A few days later, there was a new made-up rationale: It’s just that the Senate hasn’t been getting anything done, so the institution needs an overhaul.
“Except we’ve just had a uniquely terrible year to make that argument. We passed five bipartisan COVID bills with big bipartisan majorities that spent the most money in American history and helped save the country. We passed an historic bipartisan bill for national parks and public lands.
“There is fake history swirling all around this discussion.
“About a year ago, former President Obama launched a new, coordinated, and very obvious campaign to get liberals repeating the claim that the Senate rules are a relic of racism and bigotry.
“That came just a month after Democrats had used the filibuster to kill Senator Tim Scott’s police reform and anti-lynching bill.
“These talking points are an effort to use the terrible history of racism to justify a partisan power grab in the present. It’s not unlike what we saw last summer when some protest mobs ended up defacing statues of people who actually crusaded for justice — like Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and the abolitionist Mathias Baldwin.
“Mistakenly damaging good institutions because of our troubled past.
“Multiple fact-checkers have torn into this simplistic notion that the rules of the Senate are rooted in racism.
“Quote: ‘Historians told PolitiFact that the filibuster did not emerge from debates over slavery or segregation.’ One scholar’s account was that ‘the very first Senate filibuster was over a bridge across the Potomac River.’
“The junior Senator for Massachusetts just got Three Pinocchios from the Washington Post for these arguments. Their look at history found, quote, ‘the first recorded filibusters in the Senate concerned issues such as where to locate Congress, what to do about Andrew Jackson’s censure over withdrawn federal deposits, who would be appointed to a publication called the Congressional Globe, and whether to create a national bank.’
“But I’m curious. If our Democratic colleagues really believe what they’re saying, did they themselves use a racist tool against Senator Scott’s police reform bill last year?
“Did they use a racist relic when they delayed the CARES Act... or blocked legislation to protect unborn babies who can feel pain?
“Were Senators Schumer and Durbin and their 33 colleagues who signed that letter all endorsing a racist relic?
“Or is our colleagues’ story that the filibuster was not an offensive relic as recently as last summer... but magically became an offensive relic the instant Democrats came to have a majority?
“These backflips insult the intelligence of the American people.
“The far left is desperate to change the subject to the 1960s because they want people to forget how Senate Democrats behaved just last year.
“Look — if some of my Democratic colleagues want to keep lobbying two of their colleagues to go back on their word, they should at least have the courage to be honest.
“The far left wants Democrats to break the Senate rules because they want more power.
“The same people who are trying to overturn a certified election result in the House want to break Senate rules so they can override the election laws of all 50 states from here in Washington. It’s quite simple.
“And it can’t be hidden by a coordinated campaign to change the subject.”
Related Issues: Senate Democrats