McConnell Says GOP Will Retaliate If Democrats End Filibuster

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell fired a warning shot at Democrats against jettisoning the filibuster to push through President Joe Biden’s agenda over GOP opposition, threatening to shut down the most routine business in retaliation.

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell reminded Democrats that a single senator could prevent the chamber from convening before noon, require every bill on the floor to be read in full before debate, or bar noncontroversial nominees from moving through with speed. In a Senate that is split 50-50 between the two parties, he said, anyone could demand that 51 senators be present for any work -- and Vice President Kamala Harris can’t break that tie.

McConnell Says GOP Will Retaliate If Democrats End Filibuster

“This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change,” McConnell said Tuesday. “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 100-car pileup -- nothing moving.”

With Democrats moving toward action on Biden’s agenda after getting his $1.9 trillion stimulus through the Senate without any Republican support, outside liberal groups are pressing hard for them to end the filibuster. The rule allows opponents to block bills from getting a vote with endless debate. As it stands now, Democrats would need support from at least 10 Republicans to proceed with votes on most legislation.

Numerous Democratic priorities -- including voting-rights legislation, background checks for gun purchases, a national $15 minimum wage and an immigration overhaul -- are likely to face Republican filibusters.

In order to change the rules, the entire Senate Democratic caucus would have to agree and Harris would have to break the tie. Two Democrats -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona -- have said they won’t vote to get rid of the filibuster, but they will be under growing pressure to change their stance.

Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, on Monday argued that the filibuster has the Senate “hitting legislative rock bottom” and argued that at the very least, senators who utilize it should be required to speak throughout their attempted blockade of a bill rather than “phone in a filibuster.” He said the rule leaves lawmakers “unable to respond to crises and the clear wishes of the American people.”

“Defenders of the filibuster will tell you that it’s essential for American democracy,” Durbin said. “The opposite is true. Today’s filibuster undermines democracy.”

McConnell in his remarks Tuesday mocked Durbin and other top Democratic leaders for arguing against the rule, after defending it when Republicans controlled the Senate. The Kentucky Republican also said that, if Senate rules are changed, policies will tilt dramatically each time control shifts from one party to the other.

Democrats could watch Republicans enact nationwide right-to-work laws, de-fund Planned Parenthood and expand domestic energy production on “Day One” the next time they’re in the majority, McConnell said.

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