Schumer Shepherds Dems Towards Nuking Their Own Filibuster Pledges

In His Zeal To Destroy The Filibuster, And The Senate As An Institution, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Is Leading Senate Democrats In Obliterating Their Own Commitments ‘To Never Voting To Change The Legislative Filibuster’

SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY): “This Big Lie — that democracy is dying because Democrats sometimes lose elections — is a completely astro-turfed sense of crisis. The emperor has no clothes. It’s even more ironic that on this most sensitive subject, our democracy itself, some Senate Democrats want to drop a procedural nuclear bomb on the Senate itself to get their way. Our colleagues have no principled opposition to the filibuster. None at all. In 2020 alone, Senate Democrats used the filibuster to repeatedly block the CARES Act, delaying help at the start of the pandemic. They used it to kill Senator Scott’s police reform bill. In 2017, 32 Senate Democrats – including then-Senator Harris – signed an open letter insisting the legislative filibuster should not change. And a few years before that, the current Democratic Leader said this about the prospect of nuking the filibuster: ‘The ideologues in the Senate want to turn what the Founding Fathers called the cooling saucer of democracy into the rubber stamp of dictatorship…’ ‘They believe if you get 51% of the vote, there should be one party rule…’ ‘They want to make this country into a banana republic where if you don’t get your way, you change the rules!’ ‘It’ll be a doomsday for democracy if we do.’ That was the current Democratic Leader, Senator Schumer, on why the Senate should preserve its filibuster rules. Some people’s tunes change when they happen to be in the majority versus in the minority. But some Senators mean what we say. There are Senators on both sides of the aisle who have had the courage to stand up for these important rules when we’ve been in the minority and when we’ve been in the majority. There are Senators on both sides who understand that any supposedly limited ‘carve out’ would bring the whole house crashing down. There are Senators on both sides who understand that the entirety of federal law shouldn’t go radically boomeranging back and forth every time the Senate narrowly changes hands.” (Sen. McConnell, Remarks, 1/04/2022)


Schumer Has Tried Invoke Former West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, One Of The Senate’s ‘Great Traditionalists,’ To Support His Push To Eliminate The Filibuster, But Byrd Vehemently Argued ‘We Must Preserve The Rights Of The Minority’ Through The Senate Filibuster

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “Robert C. Byrd, one of this chamber’s great traditionalists, acknowledged that Senate rules that seemed appropriate in the past ‘must be changed to reflect changed circumstances.’ … As times change and circumstances evolve, the Senate must follow suit of changed circumstances when necessary.” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks, 1/04/2022)

But Actually, Sen. Byrd Said, ‘The Opponents Of The Filibuster … Want To Nuke Debate In The Senate And Stand The Senate Rules On Their Head … [B]ecause They Don’t Like The Rules [And] Want To Change The Rules In The Middle Of The Game To Get Their Own Way’

FORMER SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): “The opponents of the filibuster, the opponents of freedom of speech, say that we don’t need 217 years of American history. Oh, no. According to opponents of the filibuster, 217 years of history is a bore. It’s simply passé. Old hat. Well they say the Constitution is stale bread. The opponents of free speech see no need to rely on Jefferson, to rely on Franklin, to rely on Madison, to rely on Hamilton…. They want to nuke debate in the Senate and stand the Senate rules on their head. They want to gag the world’s greatest deliberative body.” (Sen. Byrd, Remarks to MoveOn.org Rally, 3/16/2005)

  • BYRD: “These instant constitutional experts want to warp, want to bend, if you will, the Senate’s constitutional purpose with a witches’ brew of half-truths, twisted logic, and vicious attacks on freedom of speech. Why? Because they don’t like the rules.” (Sen. Byrd, Remarks to MoveOn.org Rally, 3/16/2005)
  • BYRD: “So they want to change the rules in the middle of the game to get their own way. Who cares, they say, about the consequences? … Who cares about minority views in a free society? … Well don’t they know that sometimes the majority can be wrong? No, they don’t care! They don’t care. They want what they want, and they want it now, consequences be damned.” (Sen. Byrd, Remarks to MoveOn.org Rally, 3/16/2005)
  • BYRD: “Are we going to be muzzled by a majority that wants to silence us on all of these issues? No! Delay, deliberation, and debate may be a waste of time to some, but it’s free speech and it’s the American way for all of us who love our country…. There must be no gag rule for the United States Senate. We must preserve free speech. We must preserve the rights of the minority.” (Sen. Byrd, Remarks to MoveOn.org Rally, 3/16/2005)


Former Senator Joe Biden: ‘Ending The Filibuster Is A Very Dangerous Move,’ ‘Getting Rid Of The Filibuster Has Long-Term Consequences’ And Doing So Would Be A ‘Naked Power Grab’ And ‘The Ultimate Act Of Unfairness’

FORMER SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE): “Ending the filibuster is a very dangerous move.” (Bloomberg Business’ Emma Kinery, @EmmaKinery, Twitter, 8/08/2019)

“For Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat and a senator since 1973, the Senate remains a place where ‘you can always slow things down and make sure that a minority gets a voice,’ he said recently. And, he added, ‘the chance to filibuster’—using extended debate in order to block legislation—’is what makes the difference between this body and the other one.’” (Jeffrey Toobin, “Blowing Up The Senate,” The New Yorker, 2/28/2005)

  • BIDEN: “Folks who want to see this change want to eliminate one of the procedural mechanisms designed for the express purpose of guaranteeing individual rights, and they also have a consequence, and would undermine the protections of a minority point of view in the heat of majority excess.” (Sen. Biden, Congressional Record, S.5735, 5/23/2005)
  • BIDEN: “Why try it now--for the first time in history--to eliminate extended debate? Well, because they control every lever of the Federal Government. That is the very reason why we have the filibuster rule. So when one party, when one interest controls all levers of Government, one man or one woman can stand on the floor of the Senate and resist, if need be, the passions of the moment.” (Sen. Biden, Congressional Record, S.5736, 5/23/2005)
  • BIDEN: “I have been here 32 years, most of the time in the majority. Whenever you are in the majority, it is frustrating to see the other side block a bill or a nominee you support. I have walked in your shoes, and I get it…. Getting rid of the filibuster has long-term consequences. If there is one thing I have learned in my years here, once you change the rules and surrender the Senate’s institutional power, you never get it back. And we are about to break the rules to change the rules.” (Sen. Biden, Congressional Record, S.5736-5737, 5/23/2005)
  • BIDEN: “Put simply, the nuclear option would transform the Senate from the so-called cooling saucer our Founding Fathers talked about to cool the passions of the day to a pure majoritarian body like a Parliament. We have heard a lot in recent weeks about the rights of the majority and obstructionism. But the Senate is not meant to be a place of pure majoritarianism. Is majority rule what you really want? Do my Republican colleagues really want majority rule in this Senate?” (Sen. Biden, Congressional Record, S.5736, 5/23/2005)
  • BIDEN: “At its core, the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill, it is about compromise and moderation. That is why the Founders put unlimited debate in. When you have to--and I have never conducted a filibuster--but if I did, the purpose would be that you have to deal with me as one Senator. It does not mean I get my way. It means you may have to compromise. You may have to see my side of the argument. That is what it is about, engendering compromise and moderation.” (Sen. Biden, Congressional Record, S.5736, 5/23/2005)
  • BIDEN: “I say to my friends on the Republican side: You may own the field right now, but you won’t own it forever. I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.” (Sen. Biden, Congressional Record, S.5737, 5/23/2005)
  • BIDEN: “This is being done in the name of fairness? Quite frankly, it is the ultimate act of unfairness to alter the unique responsibility of the Senate and to do so by breaking the very rules of the Senate.” (Sen. Biden, Congressional Record, S.5735, 5/23/2005)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: “[W]hat I want to do is, I’m trying to bring the country together. And I don’t want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster or exceptions to the filibuster or going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before…. There’s no reason to protect it other than you’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done. Nothing at all will get done. And there’s a lot at stake.” (CNN Town Hall With President Joe Biden, 7/21/2021)

  • WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JEN PSAKI: “[F]irst, the President doesn’t make the decision on filibuster rules or parliamentary rules in the Senate; the Senate does.  And he’ll leave that to the Senate. It also requires the majority in the Senate to support a rule change.  And so, what he was referring to is simply what that process would look like and the fact that there are some in the Senate who have said they would halt all business if that conversation were to happen. So, in some means, he was reporting out what is publicly known about what the process might look like moving forward.” (White House Press Briefing 7/22/2021)


Democrat Leaders Once 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,’ ‘They Believe If You Get 51% Of The Vote, There Should Be One Party Rule,’ ‘They Want To Make This Country Into A Banana Republic Where If You Don’t Get Your Way, You Change The Rules!’

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): “The bottom line is very simple: the ideologues in the Senate want to turn what the Founding Fathers called the cooling saucer of democracy into the rubber stamp of dictatorship.” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks to MoveOn.org Rally, 3/16/2005)

  • SCHUMER: “They want, because they can’t get their way … to change the rules in midstream, to wash away 200 years of history. They want to make this country into a banana republic where if you don’t get your way, you change the rules! … It’ll be a doomsday for democracy if we do.” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks to MoveOn.org Rally, 3/16/2005)
  • SCHUMER: “They believe if you get 51% of the vote, there should be one party rule. We will stand in their way! Because an America of checks and balances is the America we love. It’s the America the Founding Fathers created. It’s been the America that’s kept us successful for 200 years and we’re not gonna let them change it! … We will fight, and we will preserve the Constitution!” (Sen. Schumer, Remarks to MoveOn.org Rally, 3/16/2005)

SCHUMER: “As I have said repeatedly over the last week, week and a half, let us go no further down this road. I hope the Republican Leader and I can, in the coming months, find a way to build a firewall around the legislative filibuster, which is the most important distinction between the Senate and the House. Without the 60-vote threshold for legislation, the Senate becomes a majoritarian institution like the House, much more subject to the winds of short-term electoral change. No Senator would like to see that happen so let's find a way to further protect the 60-vote rule for legislation.” (Sen. Schumer, Congressional Record, S.2436, 4/07/2017)


ABC’s GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: “What about that nuclear option, doing away with the filibuster?”
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): “Well, 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. We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and in its procedure.” (ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” 1/21/2018)

  • DURBIN: “[T]his historic debate is about more than the rights of senators on the floor of the Senate. It’s about the rights of the American people. It’s about the solemn oath each of us has taken to uphold and defend that constitution. It is about freedom…. It is a freedom we need in America!” (Sen. Durbin, Remarks to MoveOn.org Rally, 3/16/2005)
  • DURBIN: “So today our appeal … is to learn the lesson of history. Step back from this fatal strategy. No single person, no single judge, no single senator, is more important than our duty to preserve the values of the Senate and the strength of our constitutional democracy.” (Sen. Durbin, Remarks to MoveOn.org Rally, 3/16/2005)


Similarly, The Most Senior Democrat Senators Said, ‘I Think The Filibuster Serves A Purpose,’ ‘It’s A Part Of Senate Tradition, Which Creates A Sobering Effect On The Body, Which Is Healthy’

AP’s ANDREW TAYLOR: “And so some of them are suggesting that the Senate should get rid of the legislative filibuster. What’s your view of that?”
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): “No, I think that -- I agree with Thomas Jefferson [who] said, you know, it’s the saucer where things cool. What I want to do though is see us come back to voting on things. Everybody’s afraid to vote on anything…. I was elected to vote. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. We have to get back to real debates and real votes. The most things that pass, have been pretty overwhelming, as Senator Shelby and I have shown with appropriations. We’ve got them through with bigger margins than they have for years. And what I hear over and over again from senators is not the question of the filibuster, but why don’t we have votes on anything. I’d like to vote things up or vote them down.” (C-SPAN’s Newsmakers, 11/8/2019)

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): “I think it’s a part of Senate tradition, which creates a sobering effect on the body, which is healthy.” (“Senate Democrats Lukewarm On Killing The Filibuster Even If They Win The Majority Riding A Biden Wave,” Business Insider, 8/07/2020)

  • FEINSTEIN: “I don’t believe in doing that. I think the filibuster serves a purpose. It is not often used, it’s often less used now than when I first came, and I think it’s part of the Senate that differentiates itself.” (NBC’s Sahil Kapur, @sahilkapur, Twitter, 9/21/2020)


Several Senate Democrats Repeatedly Pledged They Would Never Eliminate The Legislative Filibuster: ‘I Am A No,’ ‘I Will Personally Resist Efforts To Get Rid Of It,’ ‘I Am Committed To Never Voting To Change The Legislative Filibuster’

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): “I don’t want to see the Senate become the House.” (“Manchin, Tester Vow They’ll Never Nuke The Legislative Filibuster,” National Review, 11/06/2019)

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): “I know it can be frustrating, but I think legislation is better when it has some bipartisan support.” (“Senate Democrats Look to Wound Filibuster but Not Kill It,” The Wall Street Journal, 9/1/2020)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): “My colleagues and I, everybody I’ve talked to, believe the legislative filibuster should stay there, and I will personally resist efforts to get rid of it.” (ABC News, @ABC, Twitter, 2/01/2019)

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): “I am committed to never voting to change the legislative filibuster.” (Sen. Coons, Congressional Record, S.8009, 12/21/2018)

SEN. JACKY ROSEN (D-NV): “I think we should keep the filibuster. It’s one of the few things that we have left in order to let all of the voices be heard here in the Senate…” (“Manchin, Tester Vow They’ll Never Nuke The Legislative Filibuster,” National Review, 11/6/2019)

  • “Asked whether her reservations about eliminating the filibuster stem from her support from abortion rights groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood, who endorsed Rosen during her Senate bid and have conspicuously sat out the fight over abolishing the filibuster, Rosen replied that Democrats need to be ‘careful what you wish for.’ Some proponents of abortion rights fear that removing the filibuster could backfire on Democrats if a future GOP-controlled Senate is eager to implement new abortion restrictions. ‘I will never back down from a woman’s right to choose; I think it’s fundamentally important,’ said Rosen. ‘We have to look at not just when you’re in the majority, but what does it do when you’re in the minority? You have to be mindful of that.’” (“From The Synagogue To The Senate: The Busiest Democratic Senator You’ve Probably Never Heard Of,” The Washington Post, 6/09/2021)

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): “I’m a yes [on keeping the legislative filibuster]” (“Manchin, Tester Vow They’ll Never Nuke The Legislative Filibuster,” National Review, 11/6/2019)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): “I said during my rehiring process last year, I said it would take an awful, awful lot for me to end the filibuster. I don’t think that we ought to be coming in willy-nilly and changing the rules. … I think we ought to keep the rules.” (CNBC, 1/20/2021)


Other Senate Democrats Have Warned, ‘There Was A Lot Of Interest In Getting Rid Of The Filibuster For Judges And For The Supreme Court, And That Has Not Served Us Well,’ ‘We Should Think Long And Hard About Whether Or Not We Want To Destroy All That [And] Live In A World Where They Have Their Version Of One-Party Rule For A While And Then We Substitute It With Our Version Of One-Party Rule’

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): “I would remind people there was a lot of interest in getting rid of the filibuster for judges and for the Supreme Court, and that has not served us well.” (“If Progressives Want To Nuke The Filibuster, They’re Going To Have To Convince A Bunch Of Democrats First,” Huffington Post, 2/06/2019)

  • “Indeed, skepticism about flatly eliminating the filibuster goes deeper in the Democratic ranks than the much-noted opposition of Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Members such as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said they are dismayed at Republican obstruction, but also believe that the specter of gridlock has been exaggerated by those pushing for rules changes. ‘We’re not even six months into this administration. We’ve already passed a major bipartisan bill on hate crimes. We’re about to pass another major bipartisan bill that will address research and innovation,’ said Shaheen, referencing bills regarding attacks on Asian Americans and competition with China, while also saying she hopes for bipartisan support for an infrastructure plan. ‘I think it’s an important message for the American people to see that we’re going to work together in the best interests of the country.’” (“Democrats Grapple With The Enemy Within: What To Do About The Filibuster Rule That Could Kill Their Agenda,” The Washington Post, 5/29/2021)

“[Sen. Michael] Bennet [D-CO] has sought to stake out the moral high ground as a vocal defender of institutions and norms. He complained that both parties focus too much on raw power. He lamented the descent of American politics into ‘this continuous game of shirts and skins, where you put in your climate policy for two years and they rip it out and then you put in another and they rip it out.’” (“The Daily 202: Decrying Court Packing, Michael Bennet Pleads With Democrats To Care More About Electability,” The Washington Post, 3/18/2019)

  • “Bennet, who edited the most prestigious of the law reviews at Yale and studied American history as an undergraduate, praised the founding fathers for devising a Constitution that created ‘the most elegant mechanisms’ to facilitate decision making among free people…. ‘They believed we would have disagreement, that this was an essential part of living in a democracy, and out of that disagreement would come much more durable and imaginative solutions than any king or tyrant could ever think of…. That’s what those mechanisms are for, and we’re in the process of breaking all of those mechanisms. We should think long and hard about whether or not we want to destroy all that, whether we think that what we should do is live in a world where they have their version of one-party rule for a while and then we substitute it with our version of one-party rule. To me, that seems like a really bad answer.’” (“The Daily 202: Decrying Court Packing, Michael Bennet Pleads With Democrats To Care More About Electability,” The Washington Post, 3/18/2019)

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): “The filibuster is not in the Constitution nor the original Senate rules, but we have a bicameral system for a reason and this legislative tool serves a critical purpose in ensuring the functioning of our democratic republic. Yes, it sometimes slows the process down, and some have abused or subverted it. But it remains an important part in our system of checks and balances.” (Sen. Reed, Press Release, 4/07/2017)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): “No, I’m not crazy about getting rid of the filibuster.” (“Bernie Sanders Says He’s ‘Not Crazy About Getting Rid Of The Filibuster,’” Huffington Post, 2/19/2019)

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): “I’m not particularly in favor of getting rid of the filibuster because that just means majority rule. That’s what happens in the House.” (“Dems Open To Killing Filibuster In Next Congress,” The Hill, 7/18/2019)

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): “I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I would be reluctant… I think the filibuster has some value in the institution, and I frankly think it … helps protect against an overreaching executive.” (“Dems Open To Killing Filibuster In Next Congress,” The Hill, 7/18/2019)

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): “I do think that it is pretty harmful when certain laws pass with a simple majority, because then folks in the minority don’t have their voice. And our system is set up so that those in a minority should have a voice. But the question then is, should those folks have the ultimate blockage to keep the majority from moving forward? So I don’t know where we are on that yet. I think we continue to have those conversations. I would hope that we could get to a 60-vote margin in the Senate …” (“A Conversation With Tammy Duckworth,” The New York Times, 7/16/2020)

“Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) said it’s ‘premature’ to completely ax the filibuster.” (“Biden's Foray Into Filibuster Fight Leaves Liberals No Closer To Victory,” Politico, 3/17/2021)

“New Hampshire's junior Democratic senator, Maggie Hassan … also has ‘concerns about eliminating the filibuster,’ a spokesperson said, though backs some reforms.” (“Democratic Divisions On Biden's Agenda Broader Than Just Manchin,” CNN, 3/25/2021)

SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH (D-NM): “Some of us have to think about governing. ... In terms of nuts and bolts, in terms of making this place work better, I don’t think that talk is helpful.” (“If Progressives Want To Nuke The Filibuster, They’re Going To Have To Convince A Bunch Of Democrats First,” Huffington Post, 2/06/2019)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): “I think there are ways of getting things through Congress with the legislative filibuster still in place… It takes a chief executive that knows what she’s doing or what he’s doing.” (“New Litmus Test For 2020 Democrats: Shake Up Senate Rules,” The Associated Press, 3/4/2019)


In 2017, 61 Senators, Including 32 Democrats, The Current Vice President Among Them, Urged Senate Leaders To Preserve The Legislative Filibuster

“A bipartisan group of 61 senators sent a letter to Senate leaders Friday urging them to maintain the 60-vote threshold for filibusters involving legislation, which they said is needed to ensure bipartisanship remains a component of passing bills through the chamber…. Many senators are concerned that getting rid of the 60-vote filibuster for legislation would make it so whichever party is in the majority could ram bills through and diminish the Senate’s traditional role of slowing down legislation and finding bipartisan solutions.” (“61 Senators Sign Letter To Preserve Filibuster Rules,” CNN, 4/09/2017)

‘We Are United In Our Determination To Preserve The Ability Of Members To Engage In Extended Debate When Bills Are On The Senate Floor’

61 SENATORS: “We are writing to urge you to support our efforts to preserve existing rules, practices, and traditions as they pertain to the right of Members to engage in extended debate on legislation before the United States Senate. Senators have expressed a variety of opinions about the appropriateness of limiting debate when we are considering judicial and executive branch nominations. Regardless of our past disagreements on that issue, we are united in our determination to preserve the ability of Members to engage in extended debate when bills are on the Senate floor.” (61 Senators, Letter to Sens. McConnell and Schumer, 4/07/2017)


  • Among the letter signers are:

Then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Sen. Angus King (I-ME)
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)
Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE)
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
(Sen. Collins, Press Release, 4/07/2017)



Related Issues: Senate Rules, Senate Democrats