Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., took to the Senate floor Wednesday and delivered a fiery defense of the filibuster, using a 2005 speech by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the current majority leader.
”Right now, we are on the precipice of a constitutional crisis. We are about to step into the abyss. I want to talk for a few minutes why we are on that precipice and why we are looking into that abyss,” Cotton quoted from Schumer’s speech in 2005, when the Democrats were in the minority in the Senate.
”Let me first ask a fundamental question: What is the crisis that calls for the undoing of two centuries of tradition? … Are … senators merely doing their jobs as legislators, responding to a generalized public calling for the abolition of the filibuster? Clearly not. It is not the American people at large who are demanding detonation of the nuclear option.”
Times have changed, of course, since Schumer warned that defeating the filibuster, under which 60 votes are needed to move legislation forward in the upper chamber of Congress instead of a simple majority of 51, saying that ”the nuclear option is being pushed largely by the radioactive rhetoric of a small band of radicals who hold in their hands the political fortunes of the president.”
Democrats, once staunch defenders of the filibuster rule, now find themselves at its mercy in the Senate — split among 48 Democrats, 50 Republicans and two independents who routinely caucus and vote with Democrats — holding back key Democratic legislation such as the current voting reform bill in the Senate.
”Over the coming weeks, the Senate will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges facing our democracy,” Schumer said in a Jan. 4 story in The Hill. ”We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”
Schumer telegraphed his intention to change the rules in March to get parts of President Joe Biden’s legislation on election reform and gun rights, both of which have solid Republican opposition, over the filibuster hurdle by eliminating the practice, Politico reported at the time.
At the end of his remarks, Cotton noted the change in Schumer’s posture toward the rule.
”My, how times have changed. Now it’s Sen. Schumer’s fingers that are hovering over the nuclear button, ready to destroy the filibuster for partisan advantage,” Cotton said.
”Think about it — the narrowest majority in Senate history wants to break the Senate rules to control how voters in every state elect senators. Could there be a better argument to preserve the Senate’s rules, customs and traditions?”