Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down Trump ahead of New Hampshire speech: Lewandowski would be 'fantastic' senator MORE (D-N.Y.) at a press conference on Thursday didn’t rule out getting rid of the filibuster if Democrats take back the Senate majority.

“Our focus should be on winning the majority and we’ll have a nice caucus of more than 50 Democrats and we’ll decide what to do,” Schumer said Thursday in response to a question about the filibuster. 

Legislation must win 60 votes to break a filibuster. The Senate has changed its rules in the past decade, however, to remove that obstacle on some nominations.

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Schumer said as recently as October that Democrats would consider restoring the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees — something Republicans eliminated in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE’s first year in office to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch.

But on Thursday, he declined to stand by that statement, telling reporters that Democrats will examine rules changes if they win back the majority. 

Asked about his statement in October, Schumer said, “you can think about a whole lot of things, I’ve taken no position on any of these.” 

Schumer is under pressure from the left as several Democrats running for president, including Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Manufacturing shrinks, raising questions for Trump Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties MORE (Mass.) and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert Inslee13 states file lawsuit over Trump 'public charge' rule Harris unveils plan to combat domestic terrorism 2020 Democrats release joint statement ahead of Trump's New Hampshire rally MORE (D), have called for eliminating the filibuster. 

Asked why he refused to defend the 60-vote requirement for bringing legislation to a final vote, which many lawmakers consider an essential institution of the Senate, Schumer said, “I’ve said what I’m going to say on that issue.”

It’s a tacit acknowledgement of the support that has swelled among liberals for reducing the threshold for passing major legislation through the upper chamber from 60 votes to 51 votes. 

Ezra Levin, the co-founder of Indivisible, a liberal advocacy group, told The Associated Press last month that the filibuster needs to be scrapped if Democrats take back control of the White House and Senate. 

Otherwise, he said ambitious efforts to reform health care and reduce global warming emissions will hit a wall. 

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason Reid2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again Panel: How Biden's gaffes could cost him against Trump MORE (D-Nev.) triggered the so-called nuclear option in 2013 to take away the power of Republicans to filibuster then-President Obama’s executive branch and judicial nominees. The move was precipitated by a GOP blockade of Obama’s picks to sit on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, the second most powerful court in the nation.

Schumer, however, said in 2017 that he regretted Reid’s action. 

“I argued against it at the time. I said both for the Supreme Court and Cabinet [it] should be 60 because on such important positions there should be some degree of bipartisanship,” he told CNN in January 2017.

Reid, shortly before retiring, said he didn’t regret getting rid of the filibuster for Cabinet and appellate court nominees and predicted the filibuster would be eliminated altogether some day.