There’s an old saying in politics, when you want to put a scare into somebody don’t throw them over the cliff. Just show them the cliff. Their imagination will do the rest. On the filibuster debate, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is showing the Democrats the cliff.

“So let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues. Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said. “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…I want our colleagues to imagine a world where every single task, every one of them, requires a physical quorum. Which, by the way, the vice president does not count in determining a quorum. This chaos would not open up an express lane for liberal change … The Senate would be more like a 100-car pileup, nothing moving.”

He added, “My colleagues and I have refused to kill the Senate for instant gratification. In 2017 and 2018 I was lobbied to do exactly what Democrats want to do now. A sitting president leaned on me to do it. He tweeted about it. I said no repeatedly. Because becoming a U.S. senator comes with higher duties than steamrolling any obstacles to short-term power.” V

Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, disagrees. “Today, nearly 65 years after Strom Thurmond’s marathon defense of Jim Crow, the filibuster is still making a mockery of American democracy. The filibuster is still being misused by some Senators to block legislation urgently needed and supported by strong majorities of the American people,” he said. “This is what hitting legislative rock bottom looks like. Today’s filibusters have turned the world’s most deliberative body into one of the world’s most ineffectual bodies…If a senator insists on blocking the will of the Senate, he [or she] should have to pay some minimal price of being present. No more phoning it in,” Durbin said. “If your principles are that important, stand up for them, speak your mind, hold the floor, and show your resolve.”

But in 2018, a mere three years ago, Durbin said this. “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,” Durbin said about killing the filibuster. “We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and in its procedure.” Point, set, game, McConnell.

This piece was written by David Kamioner on March 18, 2021. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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