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No. 2 Senate Democrat torches filibuster

Illinois Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinPolice reform talks hit familiar stumbling block Biden's internal polling touts public support for immigration reform The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting MORE, the No. 2 Democrat in the upper chamber, torched the legislative filibuster on Monday, arguing that it is undermining democracy.

“The filibuster is still making a mockery of American democracy. The filibuster is still being misused by some senators to block legislation urgently needed and supported by a strong majority of the American people,” Durbin said during a floor speech. 

He added, “This is what hitting legislative rock bottom looks like.”

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Durbin’s floor speech comes as intense pressure builds from outside groups and within the Senate Democratic caucus for nixing the 60-vote legislative filibuster. Democrats don’t currently have the votes to invoke the “nuclear option,” which would take every member of their 50-seat caucus.

Without changes, supporters warn that huge swaths of President BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid MORE’s biggest campaign promises are effectively dead on arrival in the Senate because at least 10 GOP senators are needed to pass most legislation.

Durbin has been involved in behind-the-scenes discussions about potential rules changes, but his floor speech on Monday — where he compared the filibuster to a “weapon of mass destruction” that is holding the Senate “hostage” — marks his strongest public pushback to date.

“Rather than protecting the finely balanced system our founders created, today’s filibuster throws a system out of balance, giving one half of one branch of government what amounts to a veto over the rest of government. It promotes gridlock, not good governance,” Durbin said.

“It’s not the guarantor of democracy. It has become the death grip of democracy,” he added.

Durbin noted that he was open to discussing any rules changes but threw his support behind reverting to the “talking” filibuster that would force a bill’s opponents to physically be on the Senate floor. 

“If a senator insists on blocking the will of the Senate, he should at least pay the minimal price of being present. No more phoning it in. ... If the Senate retains the filibuster, we must change the rules so that any senator who wants to bring the government to a standstill endures at least some discomfort in the process,” Durbin said.