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

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) on changes to the Senate’s filibuster rule on Nov. 21, 2013:

There comes a tipping point. Today was that tipping point in United States Senate.

How did we reach this point?

We tried to reach agreements – friendly agreements between the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. We tried several different times, several different ways.

One of the last standards we established was no filibusters unless there are extraordinary circumstances. That was the phrase – “extraordinary circumstances”. It turns out the extraordinary circumstance in the eyes of many Republican Senators was the re-election of Barack Obama, and that gave them free license to oppose his nominees, not just for the courts but for many important executive agencies as well. A complete breakdown of an effort to try to solve this problem in a reasonable, common sense, good faith fashion.

But there was another tipping point, and that tipping point came about because of nominees to the DC Circuit Court. Patricia Millett, born in my home state, an extraordinary, well-qualified person, argued 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. She was endorsed by both political parties. They were asked whether or not she could be bipartisan, non-partisan. Add to that Cornelia Pillard, who’s a professor at Georgetown University Law School. And then Robert Wilkins – he, too, nominated. All of them stopped by filibuster.

Not a single person on the Republican side stood up to criticize their qualifications for the job. It had nothing to do with their qualifications. It was to deny President Obama an opportunity to fill these slots on the court. That’s what it came down to.

And then to add absolute political insult to injury, what they did to our friend and colleague Congressman Mel Watt (D-North Carolina). It’s been since – what – 1843 – since the Senate denied a member of Congress an opportunity for an executive appointment and they did it to Mel Watt, a lawyer who had served in the House Banking Committee with distinction, appointed by the President and stopped cold by the Republican filibuster.

Now, if you listened – I hope you did – to the speech given by Sen. [Mitch] McConnell, here’s what you can synthesize and condense it to: The notion of filibustering judges was a Democratic idea. They abused it, and we did too. That’s what he said.

And what we said in return to him was this change in the rule will provide for no future abuse by either political party when it comes to the use of the filibuster. So it solves the problem on a bipartisan basis.

And the last point I want to make is this: We’re about to take a break for a couple of weeks. I want to come back and do some work. That’s why I ran for the United States Senate. We have things to do. We have problems to solve.

If I look at the last 12 weeks, you can count on one hand what we’ve achieved: We’ve put the government back in business – thank goodness – but beyond that the strategic helium reserve reform bill is really the centerpiece of what we’ve done. I should add to that the ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013] which I was proud that we passed but it fell off the end of the Earth when it was given to Speaker [John] Boehner.

We’ve got to come back here in Washington and face the issues that face American families back home. To do that, I think we took a step toward that goal with the change in the rules today.




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