Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday warned Democrats against scrapping the 60-vote requirement for legislation after a top Senate Democrat accidentally outed plans to steamroll another bill through Congress without Republican votes.
McConnell (R-Ky.) did not directly mention the Monday hot-mic revelation from Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and instead pegged his remarks to pressure mounted on centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WVa.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to fall in line.
“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,” McConnell said.
“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’re arguing for a radically less stable and less consensus-driven system of government.”
Manchin and Sinema publicly said in January they won’t agree to eliminate the 60-vote “filibuster” that applies to most legislation. Democratic leaders still can use a more restrictive budget reconciliation process that allows for a bare majority in the Senate.
With the support of Manchin and Sinema, Democrats rammed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill through Congress this month with no Republican votes. Cardin said that an infrastructure bill is “going to be put together similar.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill) on Monday railed against the filibuster, calling it a “weapon of mass obstruction.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Monday that “everything is on the table” to achieve the Democrats’ legislative goals.
But McConnell cited historical defense of the 60-vote threshold from Schumer and noted that when Republicans held the Senate, he resisted public calls from then-President Donald Trump to scrap the rule. He said that Democrats would regret lowering the threshold for bills when conservatives regain power and threatened in the meantime to gum up the gears of legislating.
“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,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
“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. He tweeted about it. What did I do?… I said to the president at that time, ‘No.’ I said no repeatedly because becoming a US senator comes with higher duties than steamrolling any obstacle to short term power,” McConnell said.
The GOP leader said that if Democrats moved to allow 50 votes for bills, “we will use every other rule to make tens of millions of Americans’ voices heard.”
He noted that arcane Senate rules are built around consensus and one “requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon.”
“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 100-car pileup, nothing moving,” McConnell said.