Mar 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McConnell warns of GOP retribution if Democrats eliminate filibuster

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) again warned Democrats on Tuesday that eliminating the legislative filibuster would "break the Senate" and turn the chamber into a "100-car pileup" where chaos reigns.

Why it matters: Democrats are under increasing pressure from progressives to set aside the filibuster for issues of exceptional importance, such as voting rights legislation that would counter the wave of voting restrictions being passed by Republicans at the state level.

  • But moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have said they oppose abolishing the measure, as has President Biden.

Driving the news: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said on Monday that the filibuster is "making a mockery of American democracy" and is holding the chamber "hostage."

  • Durbin expressed opposition to abolishing the filibuster in 2018 when Republicans held the majority, stating that it would be "the end of the Senate."
  • Asked about his change in position on Tuesday, Durbin told HuffPost's Igor Bobic: "Sen. McConnell taught me that I was wrong. He managed to use and abuse the filibuster so many times and stopped the Senate in its track."

The big picture: The filibuster, which makes most legislation in the Senate subject to a 60-vote threshold, is meant to protect the interests of the minority. But it has increasingly led to deadlock and turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard for bills passed by the House.

What they're saying: McConnell warned on the Senate floor Tuesday that if Democrats eliminate the filibuster and Republicans take back the majority, "we wouldn't just erase every liberal change that hurt the country — we'd strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero, zero input from the other side."

  • He promised that a Republican majority would immediately defund Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities, push abortion restrictions, ramp up security on the southern border and more.
  • "Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like," the Republican leader warned.
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