Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Republicans are "absolutely" unified in opposing a Democratic threat to curb the chamber's rules on the filibuster.
Speaking on the Senate floor in recent weeks, McConnell has repeatedly sought a guarantee from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he won't "break" his pledge to stay away from the "nuclear option." That option would entail a mere majority vote of 51 to change Senate rules, rather than overcoming the 60-vote threshold in place during a filibuster.
"This issue is settled for this Congress, and yet there’s this culture of intimidation in the Senate," McConnell told Politico
Reid continues to contemplate the idea of weakening the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for the Senate to conduct much of its business. The idea is to shrink that number to a simple majority using parliamentarian tactics.
The attitude of the Democrats is that "advise and consent means sit down, shut up, and roll over when I say to," McConnell said.
McConnell and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee cautioned on the Senate floor Tuesday that Democrats would come to regret any change in the vote-tally rules.
As soon as Republicans regain the Senate majority, they would use Democrats' rules adjustments as a precedent to cut the requirement to 51 votes from 60 on a range of other issues, including action on legislative measures, the two senators said, according to Politico.
Democrats are considering only easing the vote threshold for confirmations of executive nominees.
"We wanted to lay out the kind of agenda that a Senate Republican majority might pursue," McConnell told Politico. That could include an overturn of Obamacare, countrywide right-to-work laws, and authorization to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline and drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In any case, many experts think it's unlikely that Reid will be able to muster the 51 Democratic votes necessary to change the rules.
Liberal Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, reiterated Tuesday that he won't support an effort to change the filibuster requirement through use of the nuclear option. "My position won't change. … We ought to force them to filibuster," he told TPM
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