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

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) on changes to the Senate’s filibuster rule on Nov. 21, 2013:

In my view, this is the most important and most dangerous restructuring of Senate rules since Thomas Jefferson wrote them at the beginning of our country.

It’s really not about the filibuster. It’s another raw exercise of political power to permit the majority to do anything it wants whenever it wants to do it. It is Obamacare II in that sense.

As Sen. [Carl] Levin said, repeating Sen. [Authur] Vandenberg’s words after World War II, “A United States Senate in which the majority can do anything it wants, anytime it wants is a Senate without rules.”

It would be like the Red Sox falling behind in Boston and saying to the Cardinals, “Well, we’re the home team so we’ll just add a few innings until we can score some runs.”

This is a Senate without rules. And it’s done based upon the flimsiest of excuses. The argument is that filibusters were used to deny seats to presidential nominees.

In the history of the Senate, the number of Supreme Court nominees who’ve been denied their seat by a filibuster is zero, with a little asterisk for Abe Fortas, which was an LBJ maneuver. The number of district judges denied their seat by a filibuster is zero. The number of cabinet members denied their seat by a filibuster is zero. That’s according to the Congressional Research Service. The number of circuit judges denied their seat by a filibuster is 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans – all because Democrats for the first time in 2003, just the time I was coming to the Senate, filibustered 10 of President Bush’s judges and that was the first time in history.

They also said it’s taken too long for them to be there. The Senate’s historian has said, told me, that President Obama is being as well treated with cabinet members as the last two Presidents. You can pick the executive calendar up off every Senator’s desk and it shows this: It shows that of the people on the calendar who could be brought up to be confirmed, 54 of them have been there for less than 3 weeks and most of them – the rest – for less than 9.

What could the Majority Leader have done about that under the rules changes we made earlier, he could to this: He could have taken without changing the rules, he could have taken 10 of these sub-cabinet members, put them on the floor on Monday, there’d be an intervening day on Tuesday, he could start voting Wednesday morning as early as 1 a.m., give back 4 hours on each one, and have them all done by Friday. In other words, the Majority Leader could have asked the Senate to meet on Monday, to meet on Friday, and he could have confirmed anybody he wanted to.

And as to the DC Circuit, what the Republicans have said is precisely what the Democrats asked for in a letter sent in 2006 by all the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in which they said under no circumstances should any judge be added to the DC Circuit until we first consider the fact that it has less than half the average workload of the other circuits, and the Republican President agreed with that; one of his nominees was not confirmed, they reduced it by one. So all we asked with the DC Circuit was that we consider the Grassley bill, which has been in the Senate for 10 years, to put judges where they’re needed the most and take them from where they’re needed the least, which is the DC Circuit.

So in summary, this is a power grab. It’s Obama II. It’s another partisan, political maneuver to permit the Democratic majority to do whatever it wants to do. In this case, it’s to advance the President’s regulatory agenda and the only cure for it that I know is an election.




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