Having lost his majority and facing calls to step down from supporters of President Donald Trump, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (KY) has found himself in a tough spot.
Now, the Republican is facing another potential defeat as Democrats, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY), consider using the “nuclear option” to end the filibuster, The Hill reports.
Ending the filibuster?
McConnell lost his majority of six years on Wednesday, and Schumer became the de facto majority leader with the addition of two Democrats from Georgia in the upper chamber. But the parties have yet to hammer out a power-sharing agreement, with the Senate divided 50–50 for the first time since 2001.
At issue is the filibuster: McConnell wants Schumer to agree outright to leave the rule, which requires 60 votes to pass most bills, alone, as Reuters reports.
While long seen as a fixture of the more deliberative body of Congress, Democrats have talked up nixing it for some time to push through a radical and decidedly partisan agenda. At the very least, they want to maintain the threat of ending it.
“We’re not going to give him what he wishes. If you did that then there would be just unbridled use of it. I mean nothing holding him back,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said, according to The Hill.
Democrats could unilaterally use the “nuclear option,” now that they have a simple majority (with Vice President Kamala Harris as tie-breaker), to end the rule, Reuters notes.
Biden and his allies indeed have some seriously ambitious plans, including a proposal calling for amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants that Republicans have roundly dismissed.
But McConnell and his Republican allies have called on their Democratic colleagues to show restraint when it comes to the filibuster, saying it would be unwise to leave the issue unaddressed before a passionate disagreement results in any rash moves.
“I cannot imagine the Democratic leader would rather hold up the power-sharing agreement than simply reaffirm that his side won’t be breaking this standing rule of the Senate,” McConnell said, according to The Hill. “I appreciate our ongoing good-faith discussions and look forward to finding the solution together.”
In the meantime, Democrats are in no rush to give up their newfound leverage.
“It’s generally up to the majority as to whether they want to pursue a conversation about changing the rules. And we should reserve that right,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy (CT) said, as Politico reported. “I’m a supporter of filibuster reform, I obviously want to make my case to the caucus when and if that moment arises.”