‘This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The Senate would be more like a hundred-car pile-up. Nothing moving.’
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:
“I’ll begin today with a few quotations.
“Quote: ‘The legislative filibuster… 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.’
“That was the current Democratic Leader, Senator Schumer, in April of 2017. Less than four years ago.
“Here’s another quote. ‘What about [the] nuclear option, doing away with the filibuster?’
“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.”
“That was the Assistant Democratic Leader, Senator Durbin, in 2018. About three years ago.
“A few years ago, 33 members of the Democratic side signed a letter insisting that we ‘preserve existing rules, practices, and traditions’ regarding legislation.
“Now, under pressure from the outside, many of our Democratic colleagues are abandoning their stated principles as fast as possible.
“Yesterday Senator Durbin said the filibuster is not a core principle, but, quote, ‘an offhanded clerical suggestion.’ Quite the flip.
“And a number of Senate Democrats are trying to pressure the senior Senators from West Virginia and Arizona to abandon their own very recent commitments to honor this central rule of the Senate.
“The framers designed the Senate to require deliberation… to force cooperation… and to ensure that federal laws in our big, diverse country earn broad enough buy-in to receive the lasting consent of the governed.
“James Madison said the Senate should be a ‘complicated check’ against ‘improper acts of legislation.’ Thomas Jefferson said ‘great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.’
“Senate Democrats parroted all these arguments when they were the ones benefiting from minority protection. When President Trump pressed Republicans to kill the filibuster, our Democratic colleagues cried foul.
“And when our Republican majority stood on principle and refused to wreck the rules, our Democratic colleagues happily used the filibuster themselves.
“In some cases, they flat-out blocked legislation, like Senator Tim Scott’s police reform.
“In many other cases, Democrats did what minority parties always do, and leveraged the existence of the filibuster to influence must-pass legislation long before it got to the floor.
“There’s so much emphasis on the most extreme bills that either party might pass with a simple majority. People forget that the Senate’s 60-vote threshold is the only reason that any routine, must-pass legislation is bipartisan except during divided government.
“Big funding deals. Appropriations bills. Farm bills. Highway bills. The NDAA. The Senate’s 60-vote threshold backstops all of it. It’s not just about controversial items; it’s about everything we do.
“The Senate Democrats who are pressuring our colleagues from Arizona and West Virginia to reverse themselves are not just arguing for some procedural tweak. They are arguing for a radically less stable and less consensus-driven system of government.
“Forget about enduring laws with broad support. Nothing in federal law would be settled.
“Does anyone really believe the American people were voting for an entirely new system of government by electing Joe Biden to the White House and a 50-50 Senate?
“That may be what a few liberal activists want. Does anyone believe that’s what millions of Americans just thought they were electing?
“Of course it’s not.
“There’s an ironic element to this whole conversation.
“Some Democratic Senators seem to imagine this would be a tidy trade-off. If they could just break the rules on a razor-thin majority, sure, it might damage the institution, but then nothing would stand between them and their entire agenda. A new era of fast-track policymaking.
“Anyone who really knows the Senate knows that is not what would actually happen.
“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like.
“None of us have served one minute in a Senate that was completely drained of comity and consent.
“This is an institution that requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon…
“To proceed with a garden-variety floor speech…
“To dispense with the reading of lengthy legislative text…
“To schedule committee business…
“To move even noncontroversial nominees at anything besides a snail’s pace…
“I want my colleagues to imagine a world where every single task requires a physical quorum — for which the Vice President does not count, by the way.
“Everything that Democratic Senates did to Presidents Bush and Trump… everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama… would be child’s play compared to the disaster that Democrats would create for their own priorities if they break the Senate.
“This is not a trade-off between trampling etiquette but then getting to quickly transform the country. That’s a false choice.
“Even the most basic aspects of our colleagues’ agenda, the most mundane tasks of the Biden presidency, would be harder, not easier, for Democrats in a post-“nuclear” Senate that’s 50-50.
“If the Democrats break the rules to kill Rule 22, on a 50-50 basis, then we will use every other rule to make tens of millions of Americans’ voices heard.
“Perhaps the majority would come after the other rules next. Perhaps Rule 22 would just be the first domino of many, until the Senate ceased to be distinct from the House in any respect.
“This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change. It would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The Senate would be more like a hundred-car pile-up. Nothing moving.
“And then there’s the small matter that majorities are never permanent.
“The last time a Democratic Leader was trying to start a “nuclear” exchange, I offered a warning.
“I said my colleagues would regret it a lot sooner than they think. And just a few years and a few Supreme Court vacancies later, many of our Democratic colleagues said publicly that they did.
“Touching the hot stove again would yield the same result. But even more dramatic.
“As soon as Republicans wound up back in the saddle, we wouldn’t just erase every liberal change that hurt the country.
“We’d strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero input from the other side.
“Nationwide right-to-work for working Americans. Defunding Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities on day one.
“A whole new era of domestic energy production. Sweeping new protections for conscience and the right to life of the unborn.
“Concealed-carry reciprocity in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Massive hardening of security on our southern border.
“We saw during amendment votes just days ago that some common-sense Republican positions actually enjoy more support right now than some of the Democratic committee chairs’ priorities.
“And this is with them in the majority.
“So this pendulum would swing both ways — hard.
“My colleagues and I have refused to kill the Senate for instant gratification. In 2017 and 2018 I was lobbied to do exactly what Democrats want to do now. A sitting president leaned on me to do it.
“I said no. Because being a U.S. Senator comes with higher duties than steamrolling any obstacle to short-term power.
“I meant it. Republicans meant it.
“Less than two months ago, two of our Democratic colleagues said they mean it too.
“If they keep their word, we have a bipartisan majority that can put principle first and keep the Senate safe.”