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McConnell warns Democrats against killing filibuster

POLITICO logo POLITICO 8/22/2019 By Quint Forgey
Mitch McConnell wearing a suit and tie: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats that they would come to regret an attempt to abolish the legislative filibuster. © Win McNamee/Getty Images Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats that they would come to regret an attempt to abolish the legislative filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday issued a forceful defense of the legislative filibuster, the Senate's 60-vote threshold that Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates have expressed a new willingness to abolish.

“The legislative filibuster is directly downstream from our founding tradition. If that tradition frustrates the whims of those on the far left, it is their half-baked proposals and not the centuries-old wisdom that need retooling,” the Kentucky Republican wrote in a New York Times op-ed.

“No Republican has any trouble imagining the laundry list of socialist policies that 51 Senate Democrats would happily inflict on Middle America in a filibuster-free Senate,” McConnell wrote. “In this country, radical changes face a high bar by design. It is telling that today’s left-wing activists would rather lower that bar than produce ideas that can meet it.”

Some 2020 Democrats have said on the campaign trail that they would be open to killing the filibuster, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) remarking that “everything stays on the table.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently echoed that sentiment when asked whether Democrats would abolish the filibuster if they reclaim the chamber in 2020.

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“I hope the saner voices among Democrats can help their compatriots see reason. Unless and until that happens, Americans must never let this radical movement gain enough power to vandalize the Senate,” McConnell wrote. “If future Democrats shortsightedly decide to reduce the Senate to majority rule, we’ll have lost a key safeguard of American government.”

McConnell also warned that Democrats would come to regret the effort, just as some in the party have soured on the 2013 move by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to change Senate rules to get rid of the filibuster for most presidential appointees. Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, subsequently abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017, clearing the path for the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

“In 2017, we took the Reid precedent to its logical conclusion, covering all nominations up to and including the Supreme Court,” McConnell wrote. “So this is the legacy of the procedural avalanche Democrats set off: Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and 43 new lifetime circuit judges — the most ever at this point in a presidency. The consequences of taking Senator Reid’s advice will haunt liberals for decades.”

Reid called for abolishing the legislative filibuster earlier this month in his own Times op-ed.

“If a Democratic president wants to tackle the most important issues facing our country, then he or she must have the ability to do so — and that means curtailing Republicans’ ability to stifle the will of the American people,” he wrote. “It’s time to allow a simple majority vote instead of the 60-vote threshold now required for legislation.”

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