Senate

No. 2 GOP senator defends filibuster amid Trump attack

Greg Nash

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, defended the legislative filibuster on Tuesday, days after President Trump doubled down on his push for GOP leadership to nix the rule. 
 
“Legislation I would argue is different. When we’re in the minority we want to be able to stop bad legislation. … We want to be able to block that even if we have a minority of 41 senators in the Senate,” Cornyn told conservative radio host Mark Davis. 
 
Under Senate rules, most legislation has to overcome a 60-vote procedural hurdle that requires Republicans to win over the support of at least nine Senate Democrats. {mosads}
 
But Cornyn argued on Tuesday that the higher threshold protects Republicans when they are in the minority, allowing them to block tax increases or pro-union and climate change legislation. 
 
“I’m as eager to get things done as the next guy or gal, but I think this is a little longer view that I’ve learned from my time in the Senate that you’re not always going to be in the majority,” he said. 
 
Republicans have a narrow 51-seat majority. Last year, when they had 52 seats, they used special budget rules and passed a tax bill along party lines, but failed to corral 50 votes behind a plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. 
 
The Trump administration and House conservatives have grown increasingly frustrated by the higher procedural threshold for legislation, arguing it’s killing a swath of conservative ideas coming out of the majority rules, GOP-controlled House. 
 
Amid a round of attacks from Trump last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters “as I’ve said repeatedly to the president,” there weren’t the votes to change the rules. 

Trump reiterated on Friday — as he chastised Congress for passing a mammoth funding bill he opposed — that “we have to get rid of the filibuster rule and go to 51 votes in the Senate.”

While changes to the legislative filibuster appear dead on arrival in the Senate, Republicans have been privately discussing changing the rules to speed up consideration of Trump’s nominees for roughly a year. 
 
Pressed on moving Trump’s nominees more quickly, Cornyn added on Tuesday: “We are actually working on that. I think you will see a change in the filibuster rule when it comes to judges.” 
 
Republicans aren’t discussing changing the filibuster rule on nominations, which has already been lowered to a simple majority. But they are mulling a plan spearheaded by GOP Sen. James Lankford (Okla.) that would cut down debate time for most nominees from 30 hours to eight. 
 
Currently, after the Senate invokes cloture on a nomination, effectively showing they have the votes to ultimately pass, opponents can still drag out the debate clock for an additional 30 hours. 
 
“I think that is an area where you will see change,” Cornyn said, referencing Lankford’s proposal. 
 
Lankford has had discussions with Democrats about the issue. But a group of GOP senators are actively pressing to go “nuclear” — changing the Senate’s rules to only a simple majority — if Democrats don’t come on board.
 
But with such a narrow majority it’s unclear if Republican leadership could muster together the support for such a move. 
 
GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), who has been battling brain cancer for months, and Susan Collins (Maine), have both previously said they would oppose the move.
 
If they stuck to their oppositions, and Democrats uniformly opposed it, they would not have the votes to go nuclear. 

Tags Donald Trump James Lankford John Cornyn John McCain Mitch McConnell Susan Collins

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