U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed Democrats’ ongoing threats to get rid of the legislative filibuster. He emphasized the importance of the filibuster in the Senate and the vital role it plays in maintaining bipartisan cooperation and forcing compromise between the two parties. Thune also noted that the elimination of the legislative filibuster would significantly erode the fair representation the American people expect from Congress.
Excerpts of Thune’s remarks below:
“Mr. President, talk continues to swirl about eliminating the filibuster.
“The Democrat leader has threatened that if Republicans don’t vote the way he wants them to vote on legislation, eliminating the filibuster will be on the table.
“In the interview where he issued his threat, the Democrat leader made it very clear that he’s not inviting Republicans to work with Democrats on legislation.
“This isn’t an invitation for both parties to sit down at the table and arrive at an agreement that both parties can support.
“No, this is an invitation for Republicans to support exactly what Democrats want … or face the consequences.
“Mr. President, earlier this month one Democrat senator suggested that we should get rid of the filibuster because, quote, “it’s undemocratic.”
“In other words, it prevents the majority from doing everything it wants to do.
“But as I said on the floor last week, Mr. President, letting the majority do everything it wants is not what the Founders had in mind.
“The Founders recognized that it wasn’t just kings who could be tyrants.
“They knew majorities could be tyrants too, and that a majority – if unchecked – could trample the rights of the minority.
“And so the Founders combined majority rule with both representation and constitutional protection for the minority.
“They established safeguards – checks and balances – throughout our government to keep the government in check and ensure that the rights of the minority were protected.
“And one of those safeguards was the Senate.
“In the House of Representatives, majority rule is emphasized.
“And the Founders could have left it at that.
“They could have stuck with a single legislative body.
“But they didn’t.
“Because they were worried about the possibility of tyrannical majorities in the House endangering the rights of the minority.
“The author of Federalist 62 notes: “A senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly, distinct from, and dividing the power with, a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government. It doubles the security to the people, by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy … Secondly. The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions.”
“And so the Founders created the Senate as a check on the House of Representatives.
“They made the Senate smaller and senators’ terms of office longer, with the intention of creating a more stable, more thoughtful, and more deliberative legislative body to check ill-considered or intemperate legislation and attempts to curtail minority rights.
“And as time has gone on, the legislative filibuster has become perhaps the key way the Senate protects minority rights.
“The filibuster ensures that the minority party has a voice in the Senate.
“It forces compromise. It forces bipartisanship.
“Even in the now rare case when a majority party has a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the filibuster still forces the majority party to take into account the views of its more moderate or middle-of-the-road members, thus ensuring that more Americans are represented in legislation.
“People tend to focus on the fact that the filibuster protects the country from any one party’s most extreme legislation, but the truth is, the filibuster is probably the biggest reason that any bill in the Senate is ever bipartisan.
“Routine spending bills, farm bills, defense reauthorization bills – the main reason many of these bills are ever bipartisan, outside of divided government, is because the filibuster forces the parties to compromise.
“Don’t believe me? Just look at how the House has handled these bills in recent years.
“Mr. President, Democrats were eager to take advantage of the filibuster’s protection for minority rights when they were in the minority.
“But now that they’re in the majority they don’t want anything standing in their way.
“They don’t want to have to compromise.
“They don’t want to have to consider the Americans who didn’t vote for a Democrat agenda.
“They want to do whatever they want, whenever they want it.
“Mr. President, Democrats’ disregard for minority rights would be troubling even if they had a substantial majority in the Senate.
“The voice of the minority deserves to be heard, even when the minority is substantially outnumbered.
“But it is particularly outrageous that Democrats are so determined to sweep away protections for minority rights when they barely have a majority in the Senate – and certainly don’t have a mandate.
“In fact, Democrats don’t have a real majority at all – only a technical one.
“The Senate is divided 50-50.
“The only reason Democrats have a deciding vote in the Senate is because the vice-president is a Democrat.
“In the House, Democrats’ majority narrowed substantially in the November election.
“As for the presidency, while certainly a Democrat won the election, it’s worth noting that the only candidate who could win the Democrat primary was a man historically regarded as a moderate.
“Even among Democrats, Democrats’ far-left liberal candidates did not fare so well.
“So, Mr. President, if there was any mandate in the election, it was a mandate for moderation. For compromise. For pulling the country together.
“But Democrats are running away from unity and bipartisanship as fast as they can.
“They are determined to leverage their weak victory into the implementation of a partisan, far-left agenda.
“Two bills that have driven the conversation around eliminating the filibuster in recent weeks are H.R. 1 – an election bill – and H.R. 5 – the so-called Equality Act.
“The first bill is a truly outrageous power grab – an attempt to federalize election law and eliminate protections for election integrity.
“Democrats have discarded years of important bipartisan work on election security and integrity in order to permanently boost Democrats’ chances of winning majorities.
“The second – the so-called Equality Act – is an unprecedented attack on the First Amendment that would substantially restrict the rights of Americans to live by their faith.
“And these are the bills that Democrats think should be shoved through by the narrowest of majorities.
“Mr. President, there have been suggestions that eliminating the filibuster is the cure for partisanship and gridlock in the Senate.
“Well, it might be a cure for gridlock, in the sense that the majority could steamroll through whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted.
“But you don’t cure partisanship by making it easier for the majority to be partisan.
“Eliminating the filibuster isn’t going to eliminate partisanship – it’s going to heighten it.
“Take away the filibuster, and the majority party has zero reason – zero – to take into account the views of the minority.
“What eliminating the filibuster will do is ensure that one party has no voice at all in the Senate – no matter how many Americans that party represents.
“A couple of weeks ago, we got a preview of what life would look like in a filibuster-less Senate, when Democrats passed their so-called COVID bill under the simple-majority rules of reconciliation.
“There wasn’t a lot of gridlock – since reconciliation allowed Senate Democrats to force their bill through – but there was plenty of partisanship.
“Democrats made it very clear that while Republicans were welcome to vote for their bill, Republican ideas weren’t welcome at the table.
“Democrats knew they didn’t need Republicans to pass their legislation, which empowered them to completely reject Republican input in drafting the bill – and to load the bill with Democrat priorities, from a bailout for union pensions to a state slush fund heavily weighted in favor of blue states to the omission of longstanding federal restrictions on using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.
“It was quite a contrast to the five bipartisan COVID bills passed under the filibuster rule in a Republican-led Senate, which were focused on fighting the virus rather than shoving through partisan priorities.
“Mr. President, while their recent narrow majority has seemingly erased all memory of their minority status over the last few years, I encourage my Democrat colleagues to remember just how much they valued the legislative filibuster during their time in the minority – and how bitterly they regretted eliminating the judicial filibuster once President Trump became the beneficiary.
“While Democrats might like to think their time in power will last forever, it is a truth of American politics that sooner or later, no matter how powerful your majority, you end up in the minority again.
“I encourage my colleagues to think about that time when they will be in the minority again – and to ask themselves whether they really want to eliminate their voices, and the voices of their constituents, in future policy battles.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”