Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 12, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I want to applaud the Republican leader, the Senator from Kentucky, for saying what needed to be said. If there is a unique role for the U.S. Senate in our system of government, it is to be the place where debate and deliberation, common sense and compromise, prevail over demagoguery.

And, unfortunately, what we heard from President Biden yesterday was sheer demagoguery. And I agree that it was not only unbecoming of the President of the United States; it was, frankly, embarrassing. Many of us were embarrassed for him that he would resort to that sort of rhetoric, particularly when Members of his own political party are not on board asking him to do what he wants to do, which is to break the rules of the U.S. Senate.

So until this debate began, many Americans probably didn't think twice about something called the filibuster. And as we have all tried to explain why it is important and what role the filibuster plays in our system of government, I think it is perhaps best described as a mechanism to force us to do what doesn't come naturally, and that is to build consensus, to work together in the best interest of the country, and to pass laws that will endure, not those that will be reversed with the new majority, with the next election.

When you think about a country like ours, with 330 million people, as diverse as it is, it just makes sense for us to have fulsome debate and deliberation, because the risk of making mistakes, of unintended consequences, is great, and there is no body in America that can fix mistakes made by the U.S. Congress.

So deliberation is an important function, and that is why forcing us to do what doesn't come naturally, which means to work together and build consensus to get 60 votes to cut off debate, is such a critical role.

Well, unfortunately, our colleagues have--according to the Democratic leader and the majority leader--our colleagues have chosen to leave bipartisanship and tradition at the door in order to grow their own political power.

Make no mistake, they face an uphill battle. Two of our Democratic colleagues have stated their outright opposition, and I imagine others who hold the same view who have not wanted to catch the slings and arrows that have made their way toward the Senator from Arizona and the Senator from West Virginia.

There are many other Democratic Senators who hold the same concerns in private. Still, the majority leader is determined to light the Senate rule book on fire.

As this Chamber considers such an extreme move, I want to share some wise words from one of our former colleagues. That would be former Senator Joe Biden. The current President served in the Senate for three and a half decades and held a deep reverence for the rules and the traditions and the norms that govern this body--at least, he did. Back in 2005, the Senate was weighing whether or not to eliminate the 60- vote requirement for certain judicial nominees. At that time we had a Republican majority and a Democratic minority. The shoe was on the other foot. But Senator Biden--or then-Senator Biden--was absolutely clear about his feelings on the matter. He said: Eliminating the filibuster--the so-called nuclear option--is ``an example of the arrogance of power''--``the arrogance of power.''

Now, that is not an ambiguous statement. That is not a qualified statement. That is not a contingent statement. That is a declarative statement about what eliminating the filibuster is--an arrogance of power.

Back in 2005, then-Senator Biden believed that changing the rules to benefit yourself or your political party is an example of that arrogance of power. And he called it ``a fundamental power grab by the majority party.'' But now President Biden obviously holds the exact opposite view. In other words, he has done a spectacular flip-flop.

Now that his party is the one in power, he is not only OK with the idea of this arrogance of power, this power grab, he endorses it. He advocates for it.

He is willing to use some of the strongest rhetoric I have ever heard come from a President of the United States to condemn it, to condemn the filibuster and endorse its destruction. In Georgia, yesterday, President Biden made his new position on the filibuster crystal clear. He said: ``Let the majority prevail.''

The move he once called ``a fundamental power grab'' is now his new legislative strategy. And President Biden isn't the only one to have done a complete flip-flop when it comes to the filibuster, when it is opportunistic, when it is convenient, when it is expedient.

Senator Durbin, the Democratic majority whip, also used to have a deep respect for the traditions of the Senate. He said that, if the filibuster were eliminated, ``that would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our Founding Fathers.'' But his respect for these traditions, these norms, these rules dissipated when it became a political inconvenience.

Last year, Senator Durbin, the Senator from Illinois, said the filibuster ``has become the death grip of democracy.''

I am not sure if he is proud of it now, but Senator Schumer was also an advocate for the filibuster in the not-so-distant past. Just a few years ago--again, when the shoe was on the other foot and Democrats were a minority, and Republicans were a majority--he said we should ``build a fire wall around the legislative filibuster'' to protect the Senate from ``the winds of short-term electoral change.''

Well, today, for sure, the winds have shifted. The Senator who once supported the filibuster now finds himself as the majority leader, trying to appease the most radical elements in his political base.

Where does he stand on the filibuster today? Well, he is whipping votes to eliminate it. Democrats who once hailed the filibuster as a vital stabilizing force in our government now call it a weapon of mass destruction, a mockery of American democracy, and even a Jim Crow relic.

Let's not forget that, just about a year and a half ago, Democrats used this Jim Crow relic to block an anti-lynching bill. That is right. I was here on the Senate floor when the now-Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker from New Jersey, our colleague from New Jersey, participated in a filibuster to block a motion to proceed to a police reform bill that contained their own anti-lynching bill in it. Shocking to me. They didn't even want to begin discussion of the bill--their own anti-lynching bill.

Well, now that Democrats control all levers of government, they have tossed their previous convictions in the trash. Their agenda, securing a result that will result in a permanent partisan advantage, that is their sole focus. Our colleagues seem to have been blinded by the possibility of short-term victories, and they are ignoring the longer term repercussions, because, in the Senate, what goes around comes around.

Let's say that Democrats muster enough support to take a wrecking ball to the Senate rules. They blow up the rules and pass this so- called election bill with only 50 votes plus the tie-breaking vote of the Vice President. They would likely spend the rest of the year checking other items off of their radical wish list. This idea about a carve-out for one kind of bill is just malarkey, to use the President's term.

They would clearly use this to craft new laws to curb Second Amendment rights, expand access to abortion, and decimate important industries in the United States like the oil and gas industry. At the same time, the President is asking for Vladimir Putin and OPEC to pump more oil because the price of gasoline has gone through the roof.

Well, our colleagues like the sound of that--eliminating the filibuster--but they aren't prepared for what inevitably would come next.

The great genius of our system and of our country is that power is not absolute, and, ultimately, all power lies in the hands of we the people, and we are all directly accountable to the people we represent.

If voters reject Democrats' power grab and hand Republicans the Senate majority, Democrats would, if they were successful today or tomorrow, have zero impact on the legislative process. You could just ignore Democrats and plow your way to a certain result. They would have no way of stopping legislation they absolutely abhor from becoming law, and the States they represent, represented by Democratic Senators, those Senators would be irrelevant. Think about that.

All of us worked hard to get here. All of us are proud of the fact that our voters elected us to represent them in this most august body known on the planet, but if you happen to be in the minority, under the current position taken by the President and the majority leader and our Senate Democratic friends--almost all of them--those Senators elected in blue States would have zero impact. They might as well not even show up.

If voters reject the Democrats' power grab and hand Republicans the majority, they would have no say in the legislative process, if they are successful.

A Republican-controlled Senate could pass new laws to protect the right to life, secure the border, expand and enhance Second Amendment rights under the Constitution, and much, much more.

If that were to happen, would Democrats stand by the rules change that they are debating and advocating for today? Would they stand by their decision to silence the minority party and minority Senators? Would they agree with President Biden's statement, ``Let the majority prevail''?

Well, we don't have to wonder because we have seen this movie before. Our colleagues have already expressed regrets over the previous filibuster carve-out.

Contrary to the strong statement Democrats made in 2005 advocating for the filibuster to be maintained, they started chipping away at it just 8 years later.

In 2013, Democrats eliminated the 60-vote threshold for judicial nominees, and the move has haunted them for nearly a decade and resulted in the confirmation of three Supreme Court Justices during President Trump's term of office.

Back then, when they invoked the nuclear option, Leader McConnell said:

You will regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.

Reflecting on that moment a few years ago, Senator Bennet, one of our Colorado colleagues, was clear. He said Senator McConnell was right.

Under the previous administration, the Republican-led Senate confirmed more than 230 conservative judges, all thanks to the Democrats' elimination of the filibuster when it comes to nominations.

The senior Senator from Colorado isn't the only one who has shown remorse after ending up on the losing side of that rules change. Senator Tester, our colleague from Montana, said voting on that rule change was ``probably the biggest mistake [he] ever made.''

Senator Shaheen, our colleague from New Hampshire, concluded that ``it has not served us well.''

Even Senator Schumer, the majority leader, has said that ``I wish it hadn't happened.''

And as a reminder, this is only in reference to Federal judges. These individuals hold tremendous power, no mistake about it.

But now we are talking about rule changes that stipulate how laws are made, not how nominations are considered. This is the so-called legislative calendar, and what happens in the wake of this change would impact every single family across the country.

When Republicans, inevitably, at some point, take the majority again, it would be a simple thing, with 51 votes, to dismantle all of the laws that our Democratic colleagues have passed if they were to eliminate the filibuster. Then, of course, when Democrats take control again, the reverse would happen.

You know, I think that the 60-vote requirement is forcing us to do something that doesn't come natural, and that is to force us to work together to build consensus. I think that is what the American people want us to do, to work together. And the filibuster, that 60-vote requirement to close off debate, forces us to do just that. It eliminates the possibility that we can, with a mere majority of 51 votes, have our way, only to see it reversed after the next election. That is not good for the country. That is not good for our constituents. That doesn't create the sort of predictable, enduring laws that the American people should be able to rely on.

Well, when it comes to eliminating the filibuster, Senator Biden's line about ``the arrogance of power'' is exactly that. At some point, the shoe will be on the other foot--it always happens--which is why no party, neither party, has been so shortsighted, until now, to try to eliminate the legislative filibuster. No party has ever been so power hungry and so shortsighted as to shatter the norms and traditions of this institution.

I would like to close with one more quote from then-Senator Biden back in 2005. He said:

What shortsightedness, and what a price history will exact on those who support this radical move.