Conservative Senate candidate calls on GOP to end filibuster
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), a hard-line conservative running for the Senate seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is calling on fellow Republicans to end the legislative filibuster as a way to advance the party’s agenda.
Brooks’s chief opponents in the GOP primary are incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), who was appointed to fill Sessions’s seat in February, and former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore. Both Brooks and Moore are running to Strange’s right ahead of the Aug. 15 primary.
Brooks delivered a House floor speech on Wednesday accusing the Senate GOP of empowering Democrats to block their agenda despite having across-the-board control of Congress and the White House.
“Our Republican Senate majority is killing our conservative agenda, our Republican agenda and President Trump’s agenda. The murder weapon is the Senate filibuster rule, an archaic accident of history created during the days of horse and buggy and slavery,” Brooks said.
Without explicitly mentioning him by name, Brooks noted that Strange had signed a bipartisan letter in April imploring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to preserve the 60-vote threshold to start floor debate on legislation.
“Remarkably, even an Alabama senator supports killing President Trump’s agenda,” Brooks said in his speech.
McConnell earlier this year abolished the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees in order to move the nomination of Neil Gorsuch. His predecessor as majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid (Nev.), had previously eliminated the filibuster in 2013 for most nominees with the exception of the Supreme Court.
Brooks has urged the Senate GOP to get rid of the legislative filibuster before.
In 2015, Brooks and other fellow members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus pushed for the idea so that the Senate could pass a spending bill that revoked then-President Barack Obama’s executive actions to shield certain undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Obama would have vetoed such legislation even if the Senate GOP had decided at the time to eliminate the filibuster. But now, with Trump in office, Brooks warned that keeping the filibuster in place undermined the Senate GOP majority’s own agenda.
“There will be no border wall because our Republican senators empower Democrats to kill it. There will be no ObamaCare repeal because our Republican senators empower Democrats to stop us,” Brooks said.
Despite Brooks’s remarks, the Senate GOP healthcare bill is not stalled because of the 60-vote threshold. Republicans are trying to enact a partial repeal and replacement of the 2010 healthcare law through a process known as budget reconciliation that only requires a simple 51-vote majority.
GOP leaders intentionally decided to use that process to avoid needing any votes from Democrats and bypass a filibuster threat.
Yet Senate Republicans can only afford two defections with their 52-seat majority and still pass bills on their own with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Pence.
Enough GOP senators came out against the repeal-and-replace bill this week to prevent a minimum of 51 votes to start floor debate.
A spending bill that includes funds to start building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as President Trump promised during the campaign, will have more difficulty becoming law as a result of Senate Democrats’ opposition, however.
The House is expected to consider a spending package next week that will include $1.6 billion to build the border wall. But Senate Democrats are all but certain to block it if it reaches a vote in the upper chamber.