Transcript: Press briefing remarks by Sen. Chuck Schumer on Senate filibuster rule changes – Nov. 21, 2013

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) on changes to the Senate’s filibuster rule on Nov. 21, 2013:

…We all know today is a sad day. Things should never have gotten to this point. We’ve been forced here by an extreme group that wages a successful war on government.

We believe firmly that government has to function to help average families out of their morass. But unfortunately, there’s a group on the hard right that wants to stop everything dead in its tracks – judicial nominees, executive nominees, and legislation. And we’ve seen their success.

The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, which has been running the show believes that any dysfunction in government helps their cause. When a judge is blocked, their goal is served. When a cabinet post goes unfulfilled for months on end, they think they win. Dysfunction is their goal and they’ve been achieving it a lot recently.

Now, many people look at the congressional approval ratings hovering in the single digits and assume it’s a pox on both our Houses. But the 9% rating is a cry by the American people to the Congress: “Do something to help us! Our incomes are declining. Our lives are becoming more difficult. Stop the gridlock.”

Republicans are grinding the Senate to a near standstill, and they are using rules that were intended to bring people together to tear us apart. The age-old rules of the Senate are being used to paralyze us. And the public is asking – is begging – us to act. We’re at 9% approval because the rules give an advantage to those that want to prevent the Senate from achieving anything.

Mitch McConnell says we’ve tried to change the subject, I beg to differ. He doesn’t want to address the filibusters. He doesn’t want to address the rules changes. So three-quarters of his speech is dedicated to Obamacare. We are not changing the subject today; he is because he doesn’t want to discuss the dysfunction and the way Republicans have used the rules to tie this place in one big knot.

If you have two sides – one who is for action and one who is opposed – the Senate rules give the opposition a head start, and Republicans have abused that advantage for years, refusing to confirm qualified judges, preventing executive agencies from having the leaders they deserve. Well, it’s a new world. People demand action. The old rules need to be modified, and that’s what we’ve done today.

We haven’t ripped them up; we’ve modified them in ways that can make things work.

Who in America doesn’t think a President – Democrat or Republican – deserves his or her picks for who should run the agencies? Nobody. But there’s a long list of cabinet and sub-cabinet level positions that have been opposed. Mel Watt [is] just the most recent.

So we wish it hadn’t come to this. But the American people deserve a functioning government, not gridlock. And if our government continues to be gridlocked, people are going to lose total faith in government and it’ll be a different America. It was an imperative to change the rules to help break the gridlock and that is what we have done today.

 

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