GOP leader insists filibuster is safe as Republicans prepare to go nuclear on rules

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown Jon Stewart slams McConnell over 9/11 victim fund MORE (R-Ky.) made the case for keeping the legislative filibuster on Wednesday, minutes before Republicans are set to trigger the “nuclear option” to change the rules and speed up consideration of nominations.

“Let me be absolutely clear. The legislative filibuster is central to the nature of the Senate. It has always been and must always be the distinctive qualify of this institution,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. 

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He added that senators in both parties believe “this part of the Senate’s DNA must never be put in jeopardy or sacrificed to serve either side’s partisan, momentary wins.”

McConnell’s floor speech comes as the GOP effort to change the rules to cut down on the time it takes to confirm nominees has sparked fresh concerns about the legislative filibuster, which requires that legislation gets 60 votes before it can pass the chamber.

Talk of eliminating the legislative filibuster has gained traction among progressives, who argue the 60-vote filibuster would doom proposals like the "Green New Deal" and "Medicare for all." 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle MORE (D-Ill.) said he hopes that Republicans keep the legislative filibuster in place, but said he wouldn't be surprised if McConnell ended it.

“If eliminating the legislative filibuster will serve Sen. McConnell’s purposes, he’ll eliminate it,” Durbin told reporters earlier this week. 

The procedural fight kicked into high gear late last week after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that nixing the 60-vote legislative filibuster should be "on the table" if Democrats win back the Senate and the White House in the 2020 elections. 

Trump has also pressured Republicans to nix the filibuster, arguing it was blocking conservative agenda items like ObamaCare repeal.