McConnell: Blowing up filibuster akin to 'Armageddon for our institutions'

After taking flak from within his own caucus for being too accommodationist, Senate Republican leader rips Democrats as "frustrated they may not get to spend $4.9 trillion on their way out the door for Christmas."

Updated: December 18, 2021 - 10:24am

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Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned Thursday that a move by Senate Democrats to eliminate the legislative filibuster would amount to "armageddon for our institutions."

McConnell was referring to calls from progressives to get rid of the filibuster as a way to pass their federal voting reform legislation, formally titled the For the People Act.

"In the span of a few hours, one Senate Democrat had renewed calls to nuke the Senate and break the rules, and another published a national op-ed arguing that Democrats should attack the rule of law and pack the Supreme Court," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

"Two frontal assaults on two branches of government, proposed in the space of about two hours," added the Kentucky lawmaker, who has come under fire from within his caucus recently for being too accommodating toward Democrats. "Entire generations of statesmen would have seen either one of those unhinged proposals as Armageddon for our institutions." 

President Biden admitted this week he doesn't think his multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better Act will pass by Christmas, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had hoped.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has expressed concern about passing another large spending bill with ongoing supply chain issues and inflation rising to record levels. Moderate Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has also not publicly supported the Biden spending bill, which passed the House earlier this month. Democratic leaders need all 50 of their party's senators in the chamber to vote for the bill in order for it to pass under reconciliation rules.

McConnell said that Democrats are frustrated they won't be able to spend $4.9 trillion before Christmas.

"Not even blue New York wants these policies to weaken their elections, but some Democrats want to break the Senate and trash its rules to force these sorts of things on all 50 states? It's beyond absurd," he said.

"I understand my colleagues are frustrated they may not get to spend $4.9 trillion on their way out the door for Christmas, but believe me, lashing out at our democracy, at the Supreme Court, and at the Senate itself is not going to solve anything," he said.

Some Senate Republicans were critical of McConnell for reaching a deal with Schumer to increase the nation's debt limit by allowing it to pass with a simple majority, arguing that it made it easier for the Democrats to move forward with their budget reconciliation bill. The Senate ultimately passed a bill to change the rule and allow a temporary exemption of the debt limit from the filibuster.

McConnell addressed passage of the debt limit legislation, rejecting the argument that it could be used as a rationale to eliminate the filibuster.  

“We’ve heard false claims that the Senate obeying our rules to address the debt limit somehow paves the way for radicals to break the rules," he said.