House conservatives press McConnell to get rid of filibuster
© Greg Nash

A group of conservative House Republicans on Wednesday pressed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify next week GOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) to gut the filibuster as the GOP prepares to take control of Congress.

A 60-vote threshold on legislation and nominees in the Senate will be a key tool for Democrats looking to thwart the agenda of Republicans and President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE in the new Congress.

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So far, no Senate Republican has advocated for changing Senate rules for passing legislation since Trump pulled an upset in last week’s presidential election.

But many House GOP lawmakers at a “Conversations with Conservatives” event moderated by the Heritage Foundation argued it gives Democrats unfair leverage.

Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement MORE (R-Ariz.) invoked the popular movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and argued the 60-vote threshold is often a crutch to avoid tough votes.

“Actually make these people come down to the floor, just like in ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ and actually filibuster on the floor,” Salmon said. “So the guys filibustering can show America what a bunch of idiots they truly are.”

Senate Democrats invoked the so-called nuclear option three years ago to eliminate filibusters for most judicial nominees and executive-office appointments, requiring a vote by a simple majority instead of the 60-vote supermajority. 

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) called for lowering the threshold for all judicial appointments, which would include the Supreme Court, to a simple majority.

“I would do away with a filibuster for judges in general,” he said.

Senate Republicans have refused to consider President Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court, leaving the seat open for Trump to tap a replacement.

But Republicans are divided over calls to change the Senate's rules.

One lawmaker on the panel, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), defended keeping the filibuster in place.

“It would be foolish to get rid of the filibuster,” Massie said. “You’ll find very few Republican senators who want to get rid of the filibuster ... to spend money in the Senate takes 60 votes. What conservative would want to lower the threshold to spend money down to 51?”

It’s not the first time House conservatives have pressured McConnell to invoke the nuclear option.

Last year, they urged McConnell to change the Senate’s rules to pass a bill defunding President Obama’s executive actions shielding certain illegal immigrants from deportation.