House Republicans Tell McConnell To Ax The Filibuster For Immigration Fight

Chris Butler/Idaho Statesman
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WASHINGTON — Conservative House Republicans are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to weaken the filibuster to help Republicans overturn President Barack Obama‘s executive actions on immigration.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) said the country is facing a “constitutional crisis.”

“Mitch McConnell can change the rules of the Senate. And this is important enough for Mitch McConnell to change the rules of the Senate,” Labrador told reporters Thursday. “We had the Democrats do the nuclear option for lower level appointments.”

He continued: “If we’re going to allow seven Democratic senators to decide what the agenda is of the House Republican conference or the Senate Republican majority, then we might as well just give them the chairmanships, give them the leadership of the Senate, and allow them to decide what the agenda for the American people is going to be.”

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) backed up his colleague, accurately pointing out that the filibuster is not protected by the Constitution, and suggested that McConnell at least scrap the filibuster on the motion to proceed to debate bills.

“I don’t like the word nuclear option, it’s a little strange. But the rule is not in the Constitution. The rule is by tradition,” he said. “And the rule not been sacrosanct since the beginning — the rule has been changed from time to time.”

The remarks by the Republicans, who are among the most conservative in the House, come as the GOP strategy to use Department of Homeland Security funding to undo Obama’s immigration moves has hit a wall, due to repeated Democratic filibusters. They spoke at an event for reporters called “Conversations With Conservatives,” hosted by the Heritage Foundation.

On Wednesday, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) called on McConnell to take a page from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and change the rules.

“There’s another option. Let’s think back for a moment. And let’s look at Harry Reid, when he was Senate majority leader and the power that he wielded,” he said on the House floor. “He said, ‘I’m not going to let the filibuster stop me from achieving my political goals.'”

While most of the federal government is funded through September, DHS money runs out on Feb. 27. The House-passed bill is jammed in the Senate and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) maintains that the House won’t act until the Senate moves. Democrats are vowing to block any bill that doesn’t “cleanly” fund DHS, without the immigration provisions.

Even if the GOP’s legislation to overturn Obama’s immigration actions passed Congress, the White House has threatened to veto it.

“We took a hostage that the president wants to shoot,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said Thursday. “This is homeland security. It’s a conservative thing.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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