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Thune: Democrats Continue Their Campaign to Abolish the Filibuster, Break the Senate

“If Democrats carve out an exception for election legislation, a future Senate would be likely to carve out an exception for something else, and so on and so forth until the filibuster was carved out of existence.”

January 13, 2022

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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about the Democrats’ attempt to abolish the legislative filibuster and dramatically change the rules of the Senate. Thune noted that any carveout would lead to the permanent end of the filibuster and run completely counter to Democrats’ previous support for protecting the minority party’s protection and representation.


Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):


 “Mr. President, Democrats’ campaign to break the Senate continues.


“‘The ideologues in the Senate want to turn what the Founding Fathers called the cooling saucer of democracy into the rubber stamp of dictatorship.’


“Those aren’t my words, Mr. President.


“Those were the words of the current Senate Democrat leader back in 2005, when filibuster changes were under discussion.


“The current Democrat leader was in fact once a defender of the filibuster and the role it plays in ensuring that the minority party in the Senate – and the Americans it represents – has a voice.


“In fact, a lot of my colleagues across the aisle have defended the filibuster.


“And used the filibuster repeatedly when they were in the minority.


“In the last Congress alone, Democrats filibustered COVID relief legislation until they got a bill they could support.


“They filibustered police reform legislation.


“They filibustered Israel legislation.


“They filibustered pro-life legislation.


“And more.


“And while Republicans certainly didn’t enjoy it when Democrats used the filibuster when we were in the majority, we recognized that it meant that the Senate was working the way our Founders intended – as a place of compromise and deliberation, where the minority as well as the majority was represented.

“That’s why we resisted repeated calls from the former president to abolish the filibuster.


“Abolishing the filibuster certainly would have made it easier for us to advance important legislation.


“But we knew that sacrificing the long-term good of the Senate – and the country – for short-term gain was not an acceptable course of action.


“And let’s be very clear that that gain would have been short-term.


“If we had abolished the legislative filibuster, we could have passed a lot of important legislation – only to see it overturned as soon as Democrats took control of the legislative and executive branches.


“Once we returned to unified Republican government we could of course have put our original legislation back in place.


“But that kind of ping-ponging would be terrible for the country.


“Sharp changes in federal policy every few years would mean endless confusion for Americans.


“Plus, free of the moderating influence of the filibuster, legislation would almost unquestionably become more extreme, which would harden and intensify partisan division, not just here in Congress but in the country as a whole.


“Ordinary citizens would look ever more distrustfully at government, which would quickly come to be seen as government for Americans of one party only – the party in power.

“Mr. President, Democrats should know all of the things I am saying.


“They were in the minority just one year ago.


“And it’s hard for me to understand how they seem to forget that.


“Do they think that because they have the majority now they will always have it?


“History would beg to differ.


“I realize that Democrats have hopes that if they pass their election legislation it will help them stay in power, but surely Democrats don’t believe that they can maintain a permanent hold on government.


“There have been some pretty robust Senate majorities in American history, but sooner or later, power has always shifted.


“And the presidency has shifted too.

“Even if Democrats succeed in all of their election machinations, the day will come – and probably sooner rather than later – when their party will return to the minority. 


“And I suspect that at that point they would bitterly regret the loss of the legislative filibuster.


“Democrats have already had cause to regret the loss of the filibuster for judicial nominations.


“More than one Democrat senator has openly admitted regretting Democrats’ move to abolish the filibuster for judges and other nominees.


“And the unraveling of the filibuster for judicial nominations should be a lesson to both parties on how well weakening the filibuster or creating a filibuster carveout would work.


“Democrats carved out a filibuster exception for executive and judicial nominees.


“And Republicans took it to its logical conclusion.


“A legislative filibuster carveout would be the end of the legislative filibuster.  Period.


“If Democrats carve out an exception for election legislation, a future Senate would be likely to carve out an exception for something else, and so on and so forth until the filibuster was carved out of existence.


“In fact, I strongly suspect that a filibuster carveout solely for election legislation wouldn’t even survive the coming year.


“I can imagine my Democrat colleagues quickly deciding that some other priority of theirs was also worthy of a special exemption.


“It’s possible that the legislative filibuster would be gone before the end of this Congress.


“And again, I urge my Democrat colleagues to remember their decision to remove the filibuster for judicial nominations and how quickly that came back to haunt them.


“They may like the idea of forcing through their legislation now, but sooner or later, and probably sooner, I can guarantee that they will regret it.


“The filibuster – and its protection for the rights of the minority – is safe so long as neither party starts to chip away at it. 


“Once one party starts weakening the filibuster – especially on a totally partisan basis – that will be the end of the filibuster – and the end of real representation for the minority in Congress.


“Mr. President, it’s deeply disappointing that the Democrat leader and the president have abandoned their previous support for protecting representation for the minority.


“It’s even more astonishing that they have done so when they enjoy the narrowest of majorities in Congress – which should be a reminder of how quickly Democrats could once again return to the minority and be in need of the legislative filibuster.


“But I know that there are Democrats out there with serious doubts about their leadership’s course of action.


“Some have expressed this doubt openly.


“But I suspect there are others who haven’t spoken up who also have serious reservations.


“After all, a majority of the current Senate Democrat caucus signed a letter just four short years ago expressing their belief in the importance of the filibuster.


“I cannot believe that all of them have changed their position merely because the political winds have shifted.


“And I urge all of my Democrat colleagues to resist this power grab by the Democrat leadership and preserve our long-standing commitment to representation for the minority – and the Americans it represents.


“Mr. President, I yield the floor.