McConnell Threatens ‘Pileup’ if Democrats Change Filibuster Rules

McConnell Threatens ‘Pileup’ if Democrats Change Filibuster Rules

By / Politics / Wednesday, 17 March 2021 00:50

WASHINGTON—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened Tuesday to grind the Senate to a halt if Democrats make any changes to the legislative filibuster, after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat, floated the idea of requiring senators to be present and talking on the floor to block bills.

“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,” Mr. McConnell (R., Ky.) said in a speech Tuesday. “The Senate would be more like a hundred-car pileup. Nothing moving.”

Democrats are at least two votes shy of the 51 needed to kill off the legislative filibuster, a step that would clear the way for them to pass legislation on voting rights, immigration, gun regulations and other measures unlikely to attract bipartisan support. As an alternative, Mr. Manchin and other Senate Democrats are exploring a return to traditional “talking filibusters,” like the one famously depicted by Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Today’s senators can filibuster a bill without talking at all. They don’t even have to show up in the chamber. Now momentum is building to tweak the rules, at least, to make filibustering harder.

“Senators don’t have to stand for even one minute to shut down the Senate,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, in a speech on the Senate floor Monday. “All they have to do is threaten it, phone it in, catch a plane, go home from Washington and come back Monday to see how their filibuster’s doing. ‘Mr. Smith phones it in.’ That wouldn’t have been much of a movie, would it?”

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