McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pushing back against the emerging push to abolish the filibuster, saying that Democrats should consider retooling their "half-baked proposals" if they're frustrated by long-standing Senate tradition. 

"A Democratic assault on the legislative filibuster would make the nomination fights look like child's play," McConnell wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday about the rule that requires 60 votes for the Senate to end debate on a bill. 

"That's because systematically filibustering nominees was not an old tradition but a modern phenomenon, pioneered in 2003 by Democrats who opposed President George W. Bush. When Republicans followed suit and held up a handful of Obama nominees the same way, Democrats could not stomach their own medicine and began a 'nuclear' exchange that Republicans had to end," he added.

The op-ed comes as Democrats, including some 2020 presidential candidates, express an openness to eliminating the filibuster if they gain a majority in the Senate. Many have asserted that the rule has thwarted the party from voting on legislation addressing America's most pressing issues, such as climate change and gun control. 

McConnell dismissed those arguments, saying in a lengthy critique that the filibuster is part of a tradition in the upper chamber that values deliberation over efficiency.

"The legislative filibuster is directly downstream from our founding tradition," he wrote, before arguing that "my Republican colleagues and I have not and will not vandalize this core tradition for short-term gain."

McConnell opened his op-ed by noting that he warned former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) against eliminating the filibuster for most presidential appointees in 2013. 

"When appeals to principle fell on deaf ears, I tried a practical argument. The political winds shift often, I reminded my Democratic friends. And I doubted they'd like their new rules when the shoe was on the other foot," McConnell said. 

He added that Republicans retook the majority in the Senate just a year later, with President Trump entering the White House in 2017. Republicans that year eliminated the filibuster for all Supreme Court nominees, which McConnell called the Reid precedent's "logical conclusion."

The senator argues that the legacy of Reid's move is the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, as well as 43 new lifetime circuit judges. 

McConnell concludes his op-ed by denouncing Democrats for embracing an idea that "was recently fringe nonsense," saying that Americans "must never let this radical movement gain enough power to vandalize the Senate."

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in July signaled an openness to ending the filibuster if Democrats retook the upper chamber, saying that "nothing" would be off the table. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in April became the first presidential candidate to back eliminating the rule. Reid wrote in an op-ed in the Times earlier this month that the rule has turned the Senate into an "unworkable legislative graveyard."