Republicans threaten floor takeover if Democrats weaken filibuster
Senate Republicans are threatening they will attempt a takeover of the Senate agenda by forcing votes on issues ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to abortion rules to a U.S-Mexico border wall if Democrats weaken the filibuster.
Republicans are also looking at smaller bills such as a proposal to prohibit the administration from imposing a fracking ban by executive order, a prohibition on the IRS implementing new reporting on banks to disclose individuals’ banking activity and mandatory detention for illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes.
Senate Republican leaders on Monday said they have a list of bills they will try to bring to the floor under Rule 14 and debate if Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) rounds up enough Democrats to lower the threshold for beginning debate on a bill from 60 votes to 50.
“Since Sen. Schumer is hellbent on trying to break the Senate, Republicans will show how this reckless action would have immediate consequences,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Republicans have a list of bills that Schumer would not be keen on considering that could pass the chamber with the support of the entire GOP conference and one or two moderate Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
“We have a lot of bills, actually, that have bipartisan support that Democrats have expressed support for previously,” Thune said Monday afternoon.
The No. 2 Senate Republican said if Democrats effectively lower the threshold on the procedural motion to begin debate on a bill to 50 votes, it would allow Republicans to bring legislation such as a bill to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to the floor for a vote.
Two Democrats, Manchin and Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.), in February voted for an amendment to the budget reconciliation to resurrect the Keystone XL project. The amendment was adopted by a vote of 52-48 before later being stripped out of the resolution.
While the bills would still need 60 votes to advance to final passage, lowering the threshold to begin debate could open up vulnerable Democrats such as Sens. Raphael Warnock (Ga.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Maggie Hassan (N.H.) to a slew of tough votes.
Thune said if the 60-vote threshold to allow a vote on motion to proceed “goes away,” a variety of bipartisan bills “would be available to get called up with a simple majority,” and there “could be some really hard votes for Democrats.”
“What they’re talking about doing — we’ve said this before — is not without consequence, and they know it. They need to think long and hard … about whether or not they want to go down a path that allows Republicans to move items on our agenda at 51,” he said.
The bills that McConnell and Thune have in mind would have overwhelming Republican support and just enough backing from centrist Democrats to begin a floor debate.
Even if Republicans call legislation to the floor without any Democratic support, they say they could insist on vulnerable incumbents such as Warnock, Kelly and Hassan taking tough votes.
McConnell’s office on Monday suggested more than a dozen bills that could come to the floor if Republicans weaken the threshold for voting to proceed to legislation.
Other candidates for action include a proposal sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) to codify the Trump administration’s revised Waters of the United States rule, which the Biden administration said in November it would scrap.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers announced in November the restoration of an Obama-era rule expanding the number of waterways protected under the Clean Water Act.
Another proposal sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would bar money appropriated under the 2020 CARES Act or the 2021 American Rescue Plan from going to public elementary and secondary schools that aren’t open for in-person learning.
A third proposal sponsored by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) would prohibit the Department of Justice from paying settlements to illegal immigrants detained at the U.S.-Mexico border.
President Biden in November dismissed reports that his administration would compensate families separated at the border with up to $450,000 in damages as “garbage.”
Senate Democrats say the bills that McConnell and his team are talking about wouldn’t represent tough votes for their caucus and on Monday evening attempted to call what they characterized as McConnell’s “bluff.”
Schumer took to the floor Monday evening and offered to hold simple-majority votes to proceed to nearly 20 Republican bills placed on the Senate calendar if Republicans would allow two voting rights bills to pass with simple-majority votes.
McConnell rejected the proposal, however.
This story was updated at 8:57 a.m.