Senate leaders invoke Robert Byrd in debate over filibuster rules

McConnell on Tuesday quoted a speech from Byrd in 2010, when he said changing a rule by a simple majority would be “grossly wrong.”

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"Senator Byrd was clear about what we should never do," McConnell said Tuesday. "He said, ‘We must never, ever, tear down the only wall — the necessary fence — this nation has against the excesses of the Executive Branch and the resultant haste and tyranny of the majority.'"

“Senator Byrd was a historian; he was a skillful majority leader who understood the unique importance of the Senate and the need of a majority leader to keep his commitments; but he was also a political realist who had been around enough to understood that political majorities are fleeting. And if you break the rules to suit your political purposes of the moment, you may regret having done so when you find yourself in the minority." 

Byrd, who died in 2010, was known as an authority on the history of the Senate and wrote a multi-volume series on the chamber's rules. 

Reid said he knew Byrd better than McConnell, and claimed the late senator would be fine with the changes he has proposed because Republicans have abused the filibuster in obstructing legislation.

“I cared deeply about that man, don’t misquote him,” Reid said Tuesday.

Quoting Byrd, Reid continued, “‘this Congress is not obliged to run at the dead hand of the past.’”

Reid said the Senate is broken and it needs to be fixed — and that the former Democratic leader, Byrd, would have agreed with him.

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