61 Senators Sign Letter In Support Of Keeping Legislative Filibuster Rules

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, finishes a television news interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

After more than a year of bitter fighting to fill the seat of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, which concluded with Republicans’ elimination of the 60-vote requirement to end filibusters for nominees to the high court, 61 senators wrote to their party leadership to urge them to preserve the 60-vote rule for legislation.

In a letter Friday afternoon to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Chris Coons (D-DE) acknowledged that “senators have expressed a variety of opinions about the appropriateness of limiting debate when we are considering judicial and executive branch nominations.”

“Regardless of our past disagreements on that issue, we are united in our determination to preserve the ability of Members to engage in extended debate when bills are on the Senate floor,” it continued.

Signed by 31 Democrats, 29 Republicans and Sen. Angus King (I-ME), the letter garnered support from many of the same Republicans who voted to change the Senate’s rules for Supreme Court filibusters on Thursday, including Collins, and by many of the same Democrats who voted to change the rules for lower court and executive branch filibusters in 2013, including Coons.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who signed Collins and Coons’ letter, said Thursday that “There is no stomach at all to change the legislative filibuster, so there’s still the requirement to reach across the aisle to get 60 votes.”

On Tuesday, McConnell promised that there was “no sentiment to change the legislative filibuster.”

On Thursday, in a party-line vote, the Senate moved to change the vote threshold for cloture — to end debate and stop a filibuster — from 60 votes to 51 for Supreme Court nominees. Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court on Friday by a 54-45 vote.

“We are mindful of the unique role the Senate plays in the legislative process, and we are steadfastly committed to ensuring that this great American institution continues to serve as the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Collins and Coons’ letter concludes. “Therefore, we are asking you to join us in opposing any effort to curtail the existing rights and prerogatives of Senators to engage in full, robust, and extended debate as we consider legislation before this body in the future.”

Read Collins and Coons’ letter below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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