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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms Impeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill 'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Schumer blocks drug pricing measure during Senate fight, seeking larger action 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 CornynImpeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial 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 HatchTrump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese 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 CorkerLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing GOP senators frustrated with Romney jabs at Trump 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 McCainDonald Trump's 2020 election economic gamble 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary MORE (R-Ariz.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (R-Maine) both said at the time that they were opposed to further changes. 

- Updated at 3:23 p.m.