Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed Thursday he’ll preserve the filibuster for legislation if he becomes majority leader next January.
“I think the super-majority requirement in the Senate has been important to the country,” he said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. “I think it’s important not to change that fundamental role of the Senate.”
When it comes to bills, he said, “I do not favor turning the Senate into a majoritarian institution, even though we would probably have some short-term advantage from doing it.”
The Republican leader said that the “biggest service” the Senate has provided to the United States is reflected in the bills it has blocked. “Some of the proudest moments I can think of in my career are the things I’ve stopped.” He promised to make the Senate “a far more hospitable place” if he’s in charge.
McConnell criticized Democrats decision to use a partisan vote — the so-called nuclear option — in November to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for executive branch and non-Supreme Court judicial nominations. “That precedent will always be there,” he said. “It’s hard to un-ring a bell. And I think was very damaging to the institution.”
In response to a question Thursday, he declined to say what he’d do about that change (he could further unwind the filibuster or restore it) if the Republicans are elected to the majority.
“That’s a discussion for December,” McConnell said.
Last year McConnell threatened to eliminate the filibuster for all things — including legislation — as majority leader if Democrats made good on their threats to reform it without Republican consent. But since Democrats made the rules change he has been coy about his intentions.
Update: 11:45 P.M. EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) spokesman Adam Jentleson responded to McConnell’s remarks in an emailed statement, decrying the Republican leader for “blind, knee-jerk obstruction against any and all efforts to help the middle class.”
“With 540 filibusters under his leadership, Senator McConnell – the self-declared ‘proud guardian of gridlock’ – has done more to bring gridlock and obstruction to Washington than any single individual in Senate history,” Jentleson said, arguing that Reid has allowed minority amendments at a “higher rate” overall than his two GOP predecessors. He said McConnell was offering a “desperate plea of, ‘this time I’ll change, I swear.'”