Mar 16, 2021
Mitch McConnell Senate Floor Speech on Filibuster Transcript March 16
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a speech on the Senate floor on March 16, 2021 to warn Democrats to keep the filibuster. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Mitch McConnell : (00:00)
Mr. President, today I’d like to begin with a few quotations, “The legislative filibuster is the most important distinction between the Senate and the House. Without the 60 vote threshold for legislation, the Senate becomes a majoritarian institution just like the House, much more subject to the winds of short-term electoral change.” No Senator would like to see that happen. So let’s find a way to further protect the 60 vote rule for legislation. That was the current democratic leader, Senator Schumer in April of 2017, less than four years ago. Here’s another quote, “Mr. President, what about the nuclear option doing away with the filibuster? I can tell you that would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our founding fathers. We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority. And that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and, and its procedure.” That was the assistant democratic leader, Senator Durbin in 2018, about three years ago. A few years ago, 33 members of the Senate side signed a letter insisting that, “We preserve existing rules, practices, and traditions regarding legislation.”
Mitch McConnell : (01:37)
Now under pressure from the outside, many of our Democratic colleagues are abandoning their stated principles as fast as possible. Yesterday, Senator Durbin said the filibuster is not a core principle, but, “An offhanded clerical suggestion.” An off-handed clerical suggestion. And a number of Senate Democrats are trying to pressure the senior senators from West Virginia and Arizona to abandon their own very recent commitments to honor the central rule of the Senate. Mr. President, the founders designed to send it to require deliberation, to force cooperation, and to ensure that federal laws in our big diverse country earned broad enough buy-in to receive the lasting consent of the government. James Madison said the Senate should be a complicated check against improper acts of legislation. Thomas Jefferson said, great innovation should not be forced on slender majorities. Senate Democrats parodied all these arguments when they were the ones benefiting from minority protection.
Mitch McConnell : (02:53)
When President Trump press Republicans to kill the filibuster, our Democrat colleagues cried foul. And when our Republican majority stood on principle and refused to wreck the rules. Our Democratic colleagues happened to use the filibuster themselves. In some cases, they flat out blocked legislation, like Senator Tim Scott’s police reform bill. In many other cases, Democrats did what minority parties always do, and leverage the existence of the filibuster to influence must pass legislation long before it got to the floor. There’s so much emphasis on the most extreme bills that either party might pass with a simple majority. People forget that the Senate’s 60 vote threshold is the only reason, the only reason that any routine must pass legislation is bi-partisan except during divided government. Big funding deals, appropriation bills, farm bills, highway bills, the NDA, the Senate 60 vote threshold backstops all of it.
Mitch McConnell : (04:02)
It’s not just about controversial items. It’s about everything we do. The Senate Democrats who are pressuring our colleagues from Arizona in West Virginia to reverse themselves are not just arguing for some procedural tweak, not a procedural tweak. They’re arguing for a radically less stable and less consensus driven system of government. Forget about enduring laws with broad support, nothing in federal law would ever be settled. Does anyone really believed the American people were voting for an entirely new system of government by electing Joe Biden to the white house and a 50/50 Senate? This is a 50/50 Senate. There was no mandate to completely transform America by the American people on November 3rd. That may be what a few liberal activists won, but does anyone believe that millions of Americans thought that’s what they were electing? Of course not.
Mitch McConnell : (05:08)
There’s an ironic element to this whole conversation. Some Democratic senators to imagine this would be a tidy trade-off. If they could just break the rules on a razor thin majority, sure, it might damage the institution, but then nothing would found between them and their entire agenda. A new era of fast track policy making. But Mr. President, anyone who really knows the Senate knows that’s not what would happen. So let me say this very clearly, that’s for all 99 of my colleagues, nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like.
Mitch McConnell : (05:59)
None of us have served one minute in a Senate that was completely drained of comity and consent. This is an institution that requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon, to proceed with a garden variety floor speech, to dispense with the reading of lengthy legislative text, to schedule committee does once to move even non-controversial nominees at anything besides a snail’s pace. So Mr. President, I want our colleagues to imagine a world where every single task, every one of them, requires some physical quorum, which by the way, the vice-president does not count in determining a quorum.
Mitch McConnell : (06:57)
Everything that Democrat Senators did to Presidents Bush and Trump, everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama would be child’s play compared to the disaster the Democrats would create for their own priorities if they break the Senate. So this is not a trade-off between trampling etiquette, but then getting to quickly transform the country. That’s a false choice. Even the most basic aspects of our colleagues’ agenda, the most mundane task of the Biden presidency would actually be harder, harder, not easier were Democrats in a post nuclear Senate, that is 50/50 dead even.
Mitch McConnell : (07:52)
If the Democrats break the rules to kill Rule 22 on a 50/50 basis, then we will use every other rule to make tens of millions of Americans voices heard. Perhaps the majority would come after the other rules next. Perhaps Rule 22 would just be the first domino of many until the Senate ceased to be distinct from the House in any respect. This chaos would not open up an express lane to liberal change, it would not open up an express lane for the Biden presidency to speed into the history books. The Senate would be more like a hundred car pile up, nothing moving.
Mitch McConnell : (08:43)
And then there’s the small matter that majorities are actually never permanent. The last time a Democrat leader was trying to start a nuclear exchange, I remember offering a warning. I said my colleagues would regret it a lot sooner than they thought. And just a few years and a few Supreme Court vacancies later, many of our Democratic colleagues said publicly that they did. Touching the hot stove again would yield the same result, but even more dramatic, as soon as Republicans wound up back in the saddle, we wouldn’t just erase every liberal change that hurt the country. We’d strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero input from the other side.
Mitch McConnell : (09:40)
How about this? Nationwide right to work for working Americans. Defunding Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities on day one. A whole new era of domestic energy production. Sweeping new protections for conscience and the right to life of the unborn. Concealed carry reciprocity in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Massive hardening of security on our Southern border. We saw during the amendment votes just days ago that some common sense for Republican positions actually enjoy more support right now than some of the Democratic committee chairs priorities. And this is with them in the majority.
Mitch McConnell : (10:38)
So the pendulum, Mr. President would swing both ways and it would swing hard. My colleagues and I have refused to kill just on it for instant gratification. In 2017 and 2018, I was lobbied to do exactly what Democrats wanted to do now. A sitting president leaned on me to do it. He tweeted about it. What did I do, Mr. President? I said to the president at that time, “No.” I said no repeatedly because becoming a US Senator, it comes with higher duties than steamrolling any obstacle to short-term power. I mean it. Republicans mean it. Less than two months ago, two of our democratic colleagues said they mean it too. If they keep their word, we have a bipartisan majority that can put principles first and keep the Senate safe.