This War on Our Institutions Must End

‘The response to losing one election cannot be to attack the office of the presidency… We cannot let factional fever break our institutions. It must work the other way, as Madison and Hamilton intended. The institutions must break the fever.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the Senate Impeachment Trial:

‘The United States Senate was made for moments like this.

‘The Framers predicted that factional fever might dominate House majorities from time to time. They knew the country would need a firewall to keep partisan flames from scorching our Republic.

‘So they created the Senate. Out of “necessity,” James Madison wrote, “of some stable institution in the government.”

‘Today we will fulfill this founding purpose.

‘We will reject this incoherent case that comes nowhere near justifying the first presidential removal in history.

‘This partisan impeachment will end today. But I fear the threat to our institutions may not. Because this episode is one symptom of something deeper.

‘In the last three years, the opposition to this President has come to revolve around a truly dangerous concept.

‘Leaders in the opposite party increasingly argue that if our institutions don’t produce the outcomes they like, our institutions themselves must be broken.

‘One side has decided that defeat simply means the whole system is broken; that we must literally tear up the rules and write new ones.

‘Normally, when a party loses an election, it accepts defeat. It reflects and retools. But not this time.

‘Within months, Secretary Clinton was suggesting her defeat was invalid. She calls our president “illegitimate.”

‘A former President falsely claimed that, quote, “[President] Trump didn’t actually win… he lost the election.” And members of Congress have used similar rhetoric.

‘A disinformation campaign, weakening confidence in our democracy.

‘The very real issue of foreign election interference was abused to fuel conspiracy theories. For years, prominent voices said there’d been a secret conspiracy between the President’s campaign and a foreign government.

‘But when the Mueller investigation and the Senate Intelligence Committee debunked that, the delegitimizing endeavor did not stop. 

‘Remember what Chairman Schiff said here on the floor? He suggested that if the American people re-elect President Trump in November, that election will be presumptively invalid as well. That’s Chairman Schiff on this floor, saying if the American people re-elect President Trump this November that election will be presumptively invalid as well.

‘They still don’t accept the American voters’ last decision, and now they’re preparing to reject the voters’ next decision — if they don’t like the outcome.

‘Heads, we win; tails, you cheated; and who can trust our democracy anyway?

‘This kind of talk creates more fear and division than our foreign adversaries could achieve in their wildest dreams.

‘As Dr. Fiona Hill testified, our adversaries seek to “divide us against each other, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.”

‘And as she noted, if Americans become “consumed by partisan rancor,” we can easily do that work for them.

‘The architects of this impeachment claimed they were defending norms and institutions.

‘In reality, it was an assault on both.

‘First, the House attacked its own precedents on fairness and due process, and by rushing to use the impeachment power as a political weapon of first resort.

‘Then their articles attacked the office of the presidency.

‘Then they attacked the Senate and called us “treacherous.”

‘Then the far left tried to impugn the Chief Justice for remaining neutral during the trial.

‘And now, for the final act, the Speaker of the House is trying to steal the Senate’s sole power to render a verdict.

‘The Speaker says she will just refuse to accept this acquittal. Speaker of the House says she refuses to accept this acquittal. Whatever that means.

‘Perhaps she will tear up this verdict like she tore up the State of the Union address.

‘I would ask my distinguished colleagues across the aisle: Is this really where you want to go? 

‘The President isn’t the President? An acquittal isn’t an acquittal? Attack institutions until they get their way? 

‘Even my colleagues who may not agree with this president must see the insanity of this logic. It’s like saying you’re so worried about a bull in a china shop that you want to bulldoze the china shop to chase it out.

‘And here’s the most troubling part: There is no sign this attack on our institutions will end here.

‘In recent months, Democratic presidential candidates and Senate leaders have toyed with killing the filibuster — so the Senate could approve radical changes with less deliberation and less persuasion.

‘Several of our colleagues sent an extraordinary brief to the Supreme Court, threatening political retribution if the Justices did not decide a case the way they wanted. 

‘We have seen proposals to turn the FEC, the regulator of elections and political speech, into a partisan body for the first time ever.

‘All these things signal a toxic temptation to stop debating policy within our great American governing traditions, and instead declare war on the traditions themselves.

‘Colleagues — whatever policy differences we may have, we should all agree this is precisely the kind of recklessness the Senate was created to stop.

‘The response to losing one election cannot be to attack the office of the presidency.

‘The response to losing several elections cannot be to threaten the Electoral College.

‘The response to losing a court case cannot be to threaten the judiciary.

‘The response to losing a vote cannot be to threaten the Senate.

‘We simply cannot let factional fever break our institutions. It must work the other way, as Madison and Hamilton intended. The institutions must break the fever, rather than the other way around. 

‘The Framers built the Senate to keep temporary rage from doing permanent damage to our Republic.

‘That is what we will do when we end this precedent-breaking impeachment. 

‘I hope we will look back on this vote and say: This was the day the fever began to break.

‘I hope we will not say this was just the beginning.’