WASHINGTON ― There’s at least one piece of advice Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is not taking from President Donald Trump ― he’s not going to eliminate the filibuster so Trump can get whatever law he wants.
In the government funding bill that Congress is expected to pass this week, Trump was unable to secure a string of items he sought, including $18 billion in domestic spending cuts, defunding Planned Parenthood, punishment for so-called sanctuary cities and, perhaps of greatest symbolic importance, funding for Trump’s border wall.
Naturally, the president took to Twitter Tuesday to complain that he had to win Democratic votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster, and to argue the answer is to end the 60-vote threshold and perhaps have a government shutdown over the next spending bill.
Asked at his weekly news conference whether Trump was right and it’s time to end the filibuster, McConnell was unequivocal.
“No it isn’t,” McConnell said. “There is an overwhelming majority, on a bipartisan basis, not interested in changing the way the Senate operates on the legislative calendar. And that will not happen.”
Republicans did resort to the so-called nuclear option to change the rules for confirming Supreme Court nominees last month, when Democrats balked at Trump pick Neil Gorsuch, but McConnell flatly rejected going further and making the Senate even more like the House, where the majority rules in all cases.
“It would fundamentally change the way the Senate has worked for a very long time. We’re not going to do that,” McConnell said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) echoed McConnell.
“The idea of the nuclear option for legislative stuff is pretty much dead,” Schumer said.
Instead of changing the rules to get whatever Trump wants, McConnell suggested there was plenty Trump could focus on that is in the power of the GOP, or that can be achieved by working with Democrats.
“The two top priorities of the administration and Senate and House Republicans are revisions to health care ― repealing and replacing Obamacare ― and comprehensive tax reform. There is a pathway to achieve both of those without Democratic cooperation,” McConnell said.
He was referring to a budgetary rule called reconciliation that allows certain bills affecting revenue and spending to move through the Senate with just 51-vote majorities. The current bid to undo the Affordable Care Act would move under reconciliation ― if Republicans can ever agree on a repeal bill.
But for regular legislation, McConnell advised Trump to work across the aisle.
“On everything else, the Senate has been known for its bipartisanship,” McConnell said. “The American people expect us to work together. They like it when we reach bipartisan agreements. What we are doing this week is the beginning of a number of things we will do on a bipartisan basis.”
Schumer said he was not going to “lecture” Trump on his shutdown threat, but he did rebuke the idea of an all-out spending fight in September, when the current funding bill would expire.
“That is not the way to govern. That is not the way to come up with bipartisan compromise. That is not the way to run America, and we hope by September that we can all work together,” Schumer said.
“I’m not going to lecture him. I hope he’ll be a constructive force in the 2018 budget,” Schumer said. “I don’t think threatening a shutdown is good for America.”