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Public Statements

Filibusters

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCONNELL. De Tocqueville. Washington, when he was presiding over the Constitutional Convention, according to legend, asked what will the Senate be like. He said: Well, it will be like the saucer under the teacup. The tea will slosh out of the cup, down into the saucer, and cool off.

In other words, from the very beginning, it was anticipated by the wise men who wrote the Constitution that the Senate would be a place where things slowed down and were thought over. That has been the tradition for a very long time throughout the history of our country.

Until the First World War, it was not possible to stop a debate at all. Cloture was actually adopted by the Senate in the late teens of the previous century and then lowered in the 1970s to the current two-thirds.

Looking at the history of our country, it is pretty clear to me that the Senate has done exactly what Washington thought it would do, slow things down and move them to the middle, and has been a place where bipartisan compromise was by and large achieved, except in periods of time where either side had a very big majority which, of course, our friends on the other side had in 2009 and 2010.

The American people took a look at that and decided to issue a national restraining order and restore the kind of Senate they are more comfortable with that operates, to use a football analogy, between the two 45-yard lines. There is not a doubt in my mind that if the majority breaks the rules of the Senate, to change the rules of the Senate with regard to nominations, the next majority will do it for everything. The Senator from Tennessee has pointed that out.

I wouldn't be able to argue a year and a half from now, if I were the majority leader, to my colleagues that we shouldn't enact our legislative agenda with a simple 51 votes, having seen what the previous majority just did. I mean, there would be no rational basis for that.

It is appropriate to talk about what our agenda would be. I would be, of course, consulting with my colleagues on what our agenda would be, but I don't think there is any doubt that virtually every Member of the Senate Republican conference would think repealing ObamaCare would be job one of a new Republican majority. I don't even have to guess is what likely to be the No. 1 priority: repealing ObamaCare.

The Senator from Tennessee mentioned drilling in ANWR. There has been a majority in the Senate for quite some time, both when the Democrats were in the majority and when the Republicans were in the majority, to lift the ban against drilling in ANWR.

I think that would certainly be on any top 10 list that I was able to put together as majority leader. Approving the Keystone Pipeline, we have gotten as many as 60 votes for that. We have gotten as many as 56 votes for ANWR.

What about repealing the death tax? We had as many as 57 votes back in 2006 to repeal the death tax entirely. There is a new bill being introduced this afternoon by our colleague, Senator Thune of South Dakota, to get rid of the death tax altogether, to get rid of the dilemma every American faces. He has to visit the IRS and the undertaker on the same day, the government's final outrage.

These are the kinds of priorities our Members feel strongly about. I think I would be hard-pressed, with the new majority--having just witnessed the way the Senate was changed with a simple majority by the current Democratic majority--to argue that we should restrain ourselves from taking full advantage of this new Senate.

From the country's point of view, it is a huge step in the wrong direction. I am not advocating that, but I would be hard-pressed to say to our Members, the precedence having been set, why should we confine it to nominations.

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Mr. McCONNELL. I will say to my friend from Tennessee, the Senator is absolutely right. The one thing the two leaders have always agreed on is to protect the integrity of the institution.

For those who may be observing this colloquy, they probably wonder why it is occurring. I wish to explain to our colleagues--and to any others who may be watching while this colloquy occurs--Senate Republicans are tired of the culture of intimidation.

We have seen it over in the executive branch with the IRS and we have seen it at HHS with regard to ObamaCare; this feeling that if you are not in the majority you need to sit down, shut up, and get out of the way. That mentality, that arrogance of power, has seeped into the Senate.

The culture of intimidation is this: Do what I want to do when I want to do it or I will break the rules of the Senate--change the rules of the Senate by breaking the rules of the Senate. In other words, it is the intimidation, the threat that has been hanging over the Senate as an institution for the last few months. It needs to come to an end.

I believe that is why the Senator from Tennessee and myself would like the majority leader to answer the question does he intend to keep his word.

Senators shouldn't have to walk on eggshells around here, afraid to exercise the rights they have under the rules of the Senate. There is no question that all Senators have a lot of power in this body. This body operates on unanimous consent. That means if any 1 of the 100 wants to deny that, it makes it hard. That is the way the Senate has been for a very long time.

I want the culture of intimidation by the majority in the Senate to come to an end. The way it can end is for the majority leader to say: My word is good, and we will quit having this culture of intimidation hanging over the Senate for the next year and a half.

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