POLITICS
04/04/2017 05:43 pm ET

Mitch McConnell: Going Nuclear On Gorsuch Wouldn’t Send Senate Into Chaos

Sen. John McCain, on the other hand, says anyone who thinks the Senate would be better off is "a stupid idiot."

WASHINGTON ― Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that resorting to the controversial procedural move known as the “nuclear option” wouldn’t damage the upper chamber.

The move would make it easier for Senate Republicans to confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch. But a number of Republican senators have expressed concern that “going nuclear” to break a Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch would then become common practice when considering legislation, which could make the Senate too similar to the House.

However, McConnell said Tuesday that he will never change the rules for making new laws, which require a filibuster-proof majority ― 60 votes ― to advance legislation.

“There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster. Not one,” McConnell said. “This does not threaten the legislative calendar.”

Asked if he was pledging to leave the legislative rules intact, he answered, “Correct.”

Democrats on Monday locked in the votes necessary to filibuster Gorsuch. McConnell tried to downplay the potential impact of changing the rules to confirm Gorsuch, arguing that it would restore the Senate to the way it was before President George W. Bush was elected, when filibusters of judges were relatively rare.

“Once this change occurs, as several of my members pointed out, you’ve gone back to what was the tradition of the Senate prior to the time that Senator Schumer convinced the Democrats to start doing this,” McConnell said, pinning the more aggressive use of filibusters on current Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who at the time was a first-term Democrat from New York.

“We would be back to what was the practice in the Senate down until Bush 43 was elected president, which everybody seemed to be pretty comfortable with,” McConnell said.

Not all of his members agreed the Senate would be improved, however. One, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), reacted angrily to the suggestion. “Whoever said that is a stupid idiot,” McCain told reporters, according to an account first published by The Hill.

McConnell also glossed over the history of partisan filibusters, which skyrocketed with Republicans in the minority.

In 2003, the year McConnell says Schumer ramped up opposition, the Senate had to take 62 filibuster-breaking cloture votes with Democrats in the minority. But once Democrats took control of the Senate, McConnell escalated filibusters dramatically, until there had to be 253 cloture motions filed in the session before the GOP won back control in 2014.

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