- Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell gave a dramatic warning to Democrats who want the filibuster removed.
- He wrote what the move would result in a “totally scorched-earth Congress.”
- President Joe Biden has signaled that he is open to significantly changing the filibuster.
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats that if they press ahead with plans to change the congressional filibuster rule “they’ll unleash furies they can barely imagine.”
In an op-ed in The Wall St Journal, McConnell Wednesday defended the Senate rule, which effectively requires most bills to get 60 votes to pass into law.
It gives individual senators the ability to indefinitely delay legislation, which can only be overcome by a motion to which 60 senators agree.
The Senate is currently divided evenly 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding a tie-breaker vote.
The delicate balance means that President Joe Biden would need to overcome deep partisan divisions to secure support from GOP senators and get some of his policies through Congress to deliver on his election pledges.
The filibuster was designed to encourage bipartisan consensus. Democrats say the rule has been abused by McConnell and Republicans in recent years to block bills as part of partisan spoiling tactics.
While some progressive Democrats want it removed entirely, Joe Biden in an interview Tuesday said he was open to reforming it and requiring senators to speak on the floor of the Senate to delay a bill.
In the op-ed, McConnell defends the rule, and accuses Democrats of trying to fundamentally alter American politics. He escalated his warning, and reiterated many of the points he made in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Democrats, he writes, “are arguing for a radically less stable and less consensus-driven system of government. Nothing in federal law would ever be settled. That may be what a few liberal activists want, but does anyone believe the American people were voting for an entirely new system of government by electing Joe Biden to the White House?”
In the op-ed McConnell says that dispensing with the rule would result in a Senate even more starkly divided along partisan lines. He notes than when President Donald Trump proposed doing away with the filibuster during his time in office, Democrats strongly opposed it.
“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 the Senate that was completely drained of comity and consent,” he wrote.
He says that as soon as Republicans take back control of Congress, they’d use the absence of a filibuster to erase liberal policies, and push through hardline conservative policies of their own with no need to secure bipartisan support.
“As soon as Republicans wound up back in control, we wouldn’t stop at erasing every liberal change that hurt the country. We’d strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero input from the other side,” McConnell writes.
“The pendulum would swing both ways, and it would swing hard,” he warned.