McConnell on Preserving the Legislative Filibuster for Both Parties
‘Republicans said “no” to pushing the Senate over this precipice. When I could have tried to grab this power, I turned it down… I am grateful that’s been reciprocated by at least a pair of our colleagues across the aisle. I’m glad we’ve stepped back from this cliff. Taking that plunge would not be some progressive dream. It would be a nightmare. I guarantee it.’
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:
“Yesterday, two Democratic Senators confirmed they will not provide the votes to eliminate the legislative filibuster.
“The senior Senator for West Virginia issued a public ‘guarantee’: ‘I do not support doing away with the filibuster under any condition.’
“Any chance of changing his mind? Quote: ‘None whatsoever.’
“The senior Senator for Arizona made the same commitment. She opposes ending the legislative filibuster and ‘is not open to changing her mind.’ Our colleague informed me directly that under no circumstances would she reverse course.
“Now, it should not be news that a few members of the majority pledge they won’t tear up a central rule. But the Democratic Leader was reluctant to repeat the step I took as Majority Leader in unified government when I ruled out that step on principle.
“Rather than relying on the Democratic Leader, I took the discussion directly to his members. Basic arithmetic now ensures that there are not enough votes to break the rule.
“This victory will let us move forward with a 50-50 power-sharing agreement containing all the elements of the 2001 model. Because it will sit on the same foundation.
“I want to discuss the precipice from which the Senate has stepped back.
“In 2013, Senator Harry Reid began the “nuclear” exchange over nominations. I said Democrats would regret it.
“A few years later, we have many federal judges including three Supreme Court Justices who were confirmed with fewer than 60 votes.
“The back-and-forth exchange over nominations had one institutional silver lining. Routinely filibustering nominations was itself a modern invention, pioneered by Senate Democrats in the 2000s.
“So on nominations, for all the fighting, the Senate just circled back to the simple majority threshold that had been our longstanding norm on confirmations.
“Legislation is very different.
“When it comes to lawmaking, the Framers’ vision and our history are clear. The Senate exists to require deliberation and cooperation.
“James Madison said the Senate’s job was to provide a ‘complicated check’ against ‘improper acts of legislation.’ We ensure that laws earn enough buy-in to receive the lasting consent of the governed. We stop bad ideas, improve good ideas, and keep laws from swinging wildly with every election.
“Our friend Lamar Alexander put it this way in his farewell speech: The Senate exists to produce ‘broad agreements on controversial issues that become laws most of us have voted for and that a diverse country will accept.’
“More than any other feature, it is the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to end debate on legislation that achieves this.
“It ensures narrow interests cannot ignore the rest of the country. It embodies Jefferson’s maxim that ‘great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.’
“The bar for lawmaking is high. It should be high.
“Even if both parties take turns being slightly frustrated by it.
“If your legislation can’t pass the Senate, you don’t scrap the rules or lower the standards. You improve your idea, take your case to the people, or both.
“Four years ago, Republicans had just won unified control. President Trump and others pressured us heavily to scrap this rule when it was protecting Democrats.
“But we stood firm. I stood firm. I said we would not do that to our colleagues.
“No short-term policy win justifies destroying the Senate as we know it. Especially since laws would become so brittle and reversible.
“So Democratic Senators used the 60-vote threshold to shape and block legislation. They stalled COVID relief. They blocked police reform. They stopped even modest measures to protect innocent life.
“The same tool that some Democrats now want to destroy, they used freely and liberally throughout their years in the minority.
“Republicans understood you don’t destroy the Senate for a fleeting advantage. Our friends across the aisle must see the same.
“I’ve talked a lot about principle. We should also make this a little more tangible.
“If the Democratic majority were to attack the filibuster, they would guarantee themselves immediate chaos. Especially in this 50-50 Senate.
“This body operates every day, every hour, by consent. And destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.
“The Constitution requires the Senate to have a quorum to do any business. Right now, a quorum is 51 Senators and the Vice President does not count.
“The majority cannot even produce a quorum on their own and one could be demanded by any Senator at almost any time.
“Our committees need quorums to function as well, and will also be evenly split.
“If this majority went scorched-earth, this body would grind to a halt like we’ve never seen.
“Technically, it takes collegiality and consent for the majority to keep acting as the majority at any time they do not physically have a majority.
“In a scorched-earth, post-nuclear Senate that’s 50-50, every Senate Democrat and the Vice President could essentially just block out the next two years on their calendar.
“It takes unanimous consent to schedule most votes. To schedule speeches. To convene before noon. To schedule many hearings and markups.
“As Democrats just spent four years reminding us, it takes consent to confirm even the lowest-level nominees at anything beyond a snail’s pace.
“None of us have ever seen a Senate where every single thing either happens in the hardest possible way or not at all.
“Heck — once or twice every day, the Majority Leader reads through an entire paragraph of routine requests.
“Objections could turn each one into multiple lengthy roll-call votes.
“None of us on either side want to live in a scorched-earth Senate. The institution and the American people deserve better.
“But there’s no doubt that’s what we’d see if Democrats tear up this pivotal rule.
“It would become immediately and painfully clear to the Democratic majority that they had indeed just broken the Senate.
“This gambit would not speed the Democrats’ ambitions. It would delay them terribly.
“And it would hamstring the Biden presidency over a power grab which the President has spent decades warning against and still opposes.
“Finally, at some point, the shoe would find its way to the other foot.
“When Republicans next controlled government, we’d be able to repeal every bill that had just been rammed through.
“And we’d set about defending the unborn, exploring domestic energy, unleashing free enterprise, defunding sanctuary cities, securing the border, protecting workers’ paychecks from union bosses… you get the picture.
“But a few years later, Democrats would try to flip it all back.
“Instead of building stable consensus, we’d be chaotically swapping party platforms.
Swinging wildly between opposite visions that would guarantee half the country is miserable and resentful at any time.
We would have inherited resilient institutions but left behind a chaotic mess.
“This is a politically charged period. But when factional fever runs hot, when slender majorities are most tempted to ram through radicalism -- these are the times for which the guardrails exist in the first place.
“Republicans said “no” to pushing the Senate over this precipice. When I could have tried to grab this power, I turned it down. Because the nation needs us to respect the framers’ design and the Senate’s structure.
“Because, as I said in a different context on January the 6th, we have a higher calling than endless partisan escalation.
“We placed our trust in the institution itself. In a common desire to do the right thing.
“I am grateful that’s been reciprocated by at least a pair of our colleagues across the aisle. I’m glad we’ve stepped back from this cliff.
“Taking that plunge would not be some progressive dream.
“It would be a nightmare.
“I guarantee it.”
Related Issues: Senate Democrats