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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday threatened to essentially shut down a “post-nuclear Senate” as Democrats accelerated toward a potential vote on changing the 60-vote Senate obstruction next week.
“I think it’s appropriate to ask: What would the Senate look like in a post-nuclear world? McConnell said, referring to the “nuclear option” of setting a new precedent in the Senate with just 50 votes needed to allow the legislation to pass.
“A post-nuclear Senate would not be more efficient or more productive. I personally guarantee that,” McConnell also said. “Do my colleagues understand how many times a day the Senate needs and obtains unanimous consent for basic maintenance?” Do they understand how many things might require recorded votes? How many times could the minority demand a long debate?
This is not the first time that McConnell has made similar threats on the issue of filibuster. He made almost identical comments early last year when Democrats first took control of the Senate and appeared ready to push to end the legislative filibuster. But these latest comments come as Democrats seem more serious than ever about getting rid of the filibuster.
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McConnell also threatened Tuesday to use Senate “Rule XIV”, which allows any senator to put a bill on the Senate calendar, to hijack “the ability to set the agenda” in the Senate, which is “now exclusively in the hands of the majority.”
The comment followed an opening salvo on the issue Monday night in which McConnell used Rule XIV to place multiple GOP bills on the calendar. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., who has vowed to propose obstruction changes for a vote next week if Republicans do not vote for the Democrats’ election bills, responded by proposing to vote on these bills at a simple majority threshold if Democrats obtained simple majority votes on election bills.
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“Last night you might have seen Senator McConnell trying to make 18 amendments to Rule-14. He was trying to say, ‘See Democrats, you’re not going to like 50 votes,'” said Schumer. at a press conference on Tuesday. “I challenged him and asked for unanimous consent that we have 50 votes out of those 18 plus the Right to Vote Act, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Act. And of course, he opposed it. So we’re not afraid of 50 votes. We want 50 votes. And McConnell’s trap activity didn’t quite work. ”
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But nonetheless, McConnell doubled down on his threats of retaliation if Democrats “smash the Senate” by getting rid of or reducing the force of filibuster.
“A year ago during the insurgency people tried to break down the Electoral College. And now Senate Democrats are trying to break down the Senate,” McConnell said.
“Our colleagues looking forward to a procedural nuclear winter haven’t even begun to consider what it would look like,” McConnell said. “Our colleagues who are anxious to drain every drop of collegiality from this organ haven’t even started to think about how it would work.”
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The two bills Schumer is calling for the Senate to pass are the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Advancement of Voting Rights Act. They are almost universally opposed by Republicans and therefore are almost certain to fail if voted on with filibuster in place.
There have been discussions on Capitol Hill about a much smaller electoral reform effort – a revamp of the Electoral Tally Act, the bill that defines how electoral votes are counted. McConnell said he was open to changes on this because it “actually relates to what happened on January 6, 2021”.
But it’s not clear Democrats will go for this much narrower reform when they have more ambitious priorities – at least for now.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz and Jared Halperin contributed to this report.