McConnell shoots down Trump's call to end the filibuster
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) is shooting down President Trump's push for Republicans to change the Senate's rules for blocking legislation.

Asked if Republicans would nix the 60-vote filibuster to allow legislation to pass by a simple majority, McConnell told reporters, "That will not happen."

"There is an overwhelming majority on a bipartisan basis not interested in changing the way the Senate operates on the legislative calendar" on legislation, McConnell said during a weekly press conference.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning that voters should either elect more Republicans or get rid of the 60-vote requirement needed for ending debate on legislation. 

"The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good 'shutdown' in September to fix mess!" he wrote in a series of tweets.

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But McConnell — who pledged last month to keep the filibuster — said the move would "fundamentally change the way the Senate has worked for a very long time. We're not going to do that." 


Republicans currently have a 52-seat majority in the Senate, meaning under the current rules they need at least eight Democratic votes to move most legislation. If they went "nuclear" and changed the rules, they could pass legislation with 51 votes.

Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (D-N.Y.) echoed his GOP counterpart, noting that a majority of senators have backed keeping the higher 60-vote threshold. 

"I think the idea of using the nuclear option for legislative stuff is pretty much dead," Schumer said.

There's been little public appetite among senators to nix the legislative filibuster in the wake of Republicans going "nuclear" to lower the threshold to a simple majority for Supreme Court nominees.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal Republicans uncomfortably playing defense Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, defended the legislative filibuster after Trump's tweet. 

"The rules have saved us from a lot of really bad policy. ... I know we all are into short-term gratification, but it's a real mistake, I think, from a legislative standpoint," he said. 

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs Trump awards medal of freedom to former congressman, Olympian Jim Ryun MORE (R-Utah), the Finance Committee chairman and longest-serving senator, told CNN that without the filibuster rule, the country "would have gone straight to socialism." 

Senators in both parties have warned that nixing the filibuster would essentially turn the Senate into the House, and would come back to bite Republicans once they are back in the minority where they would be powerless to block a Democratic agenda.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans Cheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama MORE (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that he wouldn't support changing the legislative filibuster. 

"It would probably be best if the president let Congress deal with those issues ourselves," he said. 

McConnell previously opened the door in 2015 to weakening the filibuster, appointing a special task force to explore changes to the filibuster rule and other procedural hurdles — including whether to eliminate filibusters on motions to proceed to legislation. 

Republicans have been under pressure for years from House lawmakers and outside groups to get rid of the legislative filibuster. 

But sixty-one senators — enough to kill any rules change — sent a letter to McConnell and Schumer last month urging them to preserve the legislative filibuster last month.

"We are asking you to join us in opposing any effort to curtail the existing rights and prerogatives of senators to engage in full, robust and extended debate as we consider legislation before this body in the future," they wrote at the time. 

Republicans, led by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), acknowledged last month that they were discussing making an additional change to the Senate's rules to cut down on debate time on most of Trump's nominees. 

But leadership would have a narrow path if they wanted to approve the change.

They could only lose two senators if they wanted to go "nuclear" and change the rules. Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Mark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Prominent conservatives question Jerry Falwell Jr. vacation photo MORE (R-Ariz.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-Maine) both said at the time that they were opposed to further changes. 

- Updated at 3:23 p.m.