Transcript: Sen. Mitch McConnell’s floor remarks on changes to Senate filibuster rule – Nov. 21, 2013

Partial transcript of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Kentucky) floor remarks on changes to the Senate’s filibuster rule on Nov. 21, 2013:

…Over the past several weeks, the American people have been witness to one of the most breathtaking – breathtaking – indictments of big government liberalism and memory, and I’m not just talking about a website. I’m talking about the way in which Obamacare was forced on the public by an administration and the Democratic-led Congress that we now know was willing to do and say anything – anything – to pass the law.

The President and his Democratic allies were so determined to force their vision of health care on the public that they assured them up and down that they wouldn’t lose the plan they have, that they’d save money instead of losing it, and that they’d be able to use the doctors and hospitals they were already using.

But of course we know that that rhetoric just doesn’t match reality, and the stories we hear on a nearly daily basis now range from heartbreaking to comic.

Just yesterday, I saw a story about a guy getting a letter in the mail saying his dog – his dog – had qualified for insurance under Obamacare. So yeah, I’d probably be running for the exit too if I had supported this law. I’d be looking to change the subject, just as Senate Democrats have been doing with their threat of going nuclear and changing the Senate rules on nominations.

If I were the Senator from Oregon, for example, which hasn’t enrolled a single person – a single person – through the Obamacare exchange, I’d probably want to talk about something else too.

But here’s the problem with this latest distraction: It doesn’t distract people from Obamacare; it reminds them of Obamacare. It reminds them of all the broken promises. It reminds them of the power grab. It reminds them of the way Democrats set up one set of rules for themselves and another for everybody else. One set of rules for them and another for everybody else.

Actually, this is all basically the same debate, and rather than distract people from Obamacare, it only reinforces the narrative of a party that is willing to do and say just about anything to get its way because that’s just what they’re doing all over again.

Once again, Senate Democrats are threatening to break the rules of the Senate – break the rules of the Senate – in order to change the rules of the Senate. And over what? Over what? Over a court that doesn’t even have enough work to do.

Millions of Americans are hurting because of a law Washington Democrats forced upon them and what are they doing about it? They cook up some fake fight over judges – a fake fight over judges – that aren’t even needed.

Look, I get it. As I indicated, I’d want to be talking about something else too if I had to defend dogs getting insurance while millions of Americans lost theirs. But it won’t work.

And the parallels between this latest skirmish and the original Obamacare push are just too obvious to ignore.

Think about it. Just think about it. The Majority Leader promised – he promised – over and over again that he wouldn’t break the rules of the Senate in order to change them.

This is not an ancient promise. July 14 on Meet the Press said, “We’re not touching judges.” This year July 14th Meet the Press – “We’re not touching judges.”

Then there are the double standards. When Democrats were in the minority, they argued strenuously for the very thing they now say we will have to do without, namely the right to extend the debate on lifetime appointments.

In other words, they believe that one set of rules should apply to them – to them – and another set to everybody else.

He may have just as well have said, “If you like the rules of the Senate, you can keep them.” [Laughter] Huh? “If you like the rules of the Senate, you can keep them.”

Just the way so many Democrats and the administration and Congress believe that Obamacare is good enough for their constituents, when it comes to them, their political allies, their staff – well, of course, that’s different.

And let’s not forget about the raw power – the raw power – at play here. On this point, the similarities between the Obamacare debate and the Democratic threat to go nuclear on nominations are inescapable – inescapable.

They muscled through Obamacare in a party-line vote and didn’t care about the views of the minority. Didn’t care one whip about the views of the minority. And that’s just about what they’re going to do here.

The American people decided to give the Democrats – not to give the Democrats the House or to restore a filibuster-proof majority they had in the Senate back in 2009, and our Democratic colleagues don’t like that one bit. They just don’t like it. The American people are getting in the way of what they’d like to do.

So they’re trying to change the rules of the game to get their way anyway. They said so themselves.

Earlier this year, the senior Senator from New York said they want to fill up the DC Circuit one way or the other. Fill up the DC Circuit one way or the other. And the reason is clear, as one liberal activist put it earlier this year, President Obama’s agenda runs through the DC Circuit.

Can’t get what you want through the Congress because the American people in November 2010 said they had enough, they issued a national restraining order after watching two years of this administration unrestrained. So now, their agenda runs through the bureaucracy and through the DC Circuit.

As I said, in short, unlike the first two years of the Obama administration, there’s now a legislative check on the President, and the administration doesn’t much like checks and balances. So it wants to circumvent the people’s representatives with an aggressive regulatory agenda, and our Democratic colleagues want to facilitate that by filling up a court that will rule on his agenda – a court that doesn’t even have enough work to do – especially if it means changing the subject from Obamacare for a few days.

And get this: They think they can change the rules of the Senate in a way that benefits only them. They want to do it in such a way that President Obama’s agenda gets enacted but that a future Republican President couldn’t get his or her pick for the Supreme Court confirmed by a Republican Senate using the same precedent our Democratic friends want to set. So they want to have it both ways.

But this sort of gerrymandered vision of the nuclear option is really just wishful thinking. As the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. [Chuck] Grassley pointed out yesterday, if the Majority Leader changes the rules for some judicial nominees, he’s effectively changing them for all judicial nominees, including the Supreme Court, as Sen. Grassley pointed out just yesterday.

So look, I realize this sort of wishful thinking might appeal to the uninitiated newcomers in the Democratic conference who’ve served exactly zero days in the minority, but the rest of you guys in the conference should know better. Those of you who’ve been in the minority before should know better.

Let’s remember how we got here. Let’s remember it was Senate Democrats who pioneered – who literally pioneered – the practice of filibustering circuit court nominees and who’ve been its biggest proponents in the very recent past. After President Bush was elected, they even held a retreat in which they discussed the need to change the ground rules by which lifetime appointments are considered. The senior Senator from New York put on a seminar…

In the past, the practice had been neither side had filibustered circuit court nominees. In fact, I can remember at Sen. [Trent] Lott’s insistence gagging several times in voting cloture on circuit judges to the Ninth Circuit knowing full well once cloture is invoked they’d be confirmed.

So this business of filibustering circuit court judges was entirely an invention of the guys over here – on the other side, the ones you’re looking at right over here. They made it up. They started it. And this is where we ended up.

After President Bush was elected, they held this retreat that I was just talking about and made a big deal about it. It was all a prelude to what followed – the serial filibustering of several of President Bush’s circuit court nominees, including Miguel Estrada, whose nomination to the DC Circuit was filibustered by Senate Democrats a record 7 times – 7 times.

And now, they want to blow up the rules because Republicans are following the precedent they themselves set and, I might add, we’re following that precedent in a much more modest way than Democrats did.

So how about this for a suggestion? How about instead of picking a fight with Senate Republicans by jamming through nominees to a court that doesn’t even have enough work to do, how about taking yes for an answer and working with us on filling judicial emergencies that actually exist?

Yet, rather than learn from past precedents on judicial nominations that they themselves set, Democrats now want to set another one. Now, I have no doubt that if they do, they will come to regret that one as well. Our colleagues, evidently, would rather live for the moment, satisfy the moment, live for the moment, and try to establish a storyline that Republicans are intent on obstructing President Obama’s judicial nominees. That storyline is patently ridiculous in light of the facts – an utterly absurd suggestion in light of the facts.

Before this current Democratic gambit to fill up the DC Circuit one way or the other, the Senate had confirmed 215 – 215 – of the President’s judicial nominees and rejected 2. That’s a 99% confirmation rate. 215 confirmed and 2 rejected. 99%.

Look, if advise and consent is to mean anything at all, occasionally consent is not given.

By any objective standard, Senate Republicans have been very, very favorable to this President. We’ve been willing to confirm his nominees. In fact, speaking of the DC Circuit, we just confirmed one a few months ago, 97 to nothing, to the DC Circuit.

So I suggest our colleagues take a time out, stop trying to jam us, work with us instead to confirm vacancies that actually need to be filled, which we’ve been doing.

This rules change…has gone from being a biannual threat to an annual threat, now to a quarterly threat. How many times have we been threatened by colleagues – “Do what I say or we’ll break the rules to change the rules”, “Confirm everybody – 100% – anything less than that is obstructionism”? That’s what they’re saying to effect.

Let me say we’re not interested in having a gun put to our head any longer. Do you think this is in the best interest of the United States Senate and the American people to make advise and consent in effect mean nothing? Obviously, you can break the rules to change the rules to achieve that.

But some of us have been around long enough to know the shoe’s sometimes on the other foot.

This strategy of distract, distract, distract is getting old. I don’t think the American people are fooled about this.

If our colleagues want to work with us to fill judicial vacancies like we’ve been doing all year, 99% of judges confirmed, obviously we’re willing to do that. If you want to play games, set yet another precedent that you’ll no doubt come to regret, I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, “You’ll regret this and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”

Let me be clear: The Democratic playbook of broken promises, double standards, and raw power – the same playbook that got us Obamacare – has to end. It may take the American people to end it, but it has to end. That’s why Republicans are going to keep their focus where it belongs – on the concerns of the American people. It means we’re going to keep pushing to get back to the drawing board on health care – to replace Obamacare with real reforms that do not punish the middle-class – and we’ll leave the political games to our friends on the other side of the aisle.




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