Leahy Opposes Change to Senate Filibuster Rule, Even to Help a Possible Dem President

Craig Millward | November 11, 2019 | 12:28pm EST
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Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)  (Getty Images)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) (Getty Images)

( -- On C-SPAN’s Newsmakers on Sunday, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he does not want the Senate to change the filibuster rules to have a simple majority to advance legislation, even under the administration of a possible Democrat president in 2021. 

AP’s Andrew Taylor said to Leahy, “Unlike the situation that President Obama confronted when he was elected -- and eventually had a filibuster proof Senate and was able to do things with essentially mostly Democratic support -- even in the best case scenario, any of your [2020] candidates would not have a filibuster proof Senate.”

“I think that’s true,” Leahy interjected.

Taylor continued, “And so some of them are suggesting that the Senate should get rid of the legislative filibuster. What’s your view of that?”

“No, I think that -- I agree with Thomas Jefferson [who] said, you know, it’s the saucer where things cool,” Leahy responded. “What I want to do though is see us come back to voting on things.”

“Everybody’s afraid to vote on anything,” said Leahy. “I voted over 16,000 times. Of the 2,000 senators in the history of this country, there’s only two or three that have voted more than I have. I guarantee you that if somebody wants to use some of those votes against me, go back through 16,000, and say ‘man what a mistake he made on that.’ So what? I was elected to vote. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution.”

“We have to get back to real debates and real votes,” said the Vermont senator.  “The most things that pass, have been pretty overwhelming, as Senator Shelby and I have shown with appropriations. We’ve got them through with bigger margins than they have for years.”

U.S. Capitol.   (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. Capitol. (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

“And what I hear over and over again from senators is not the question of the filibuster, but why don't we have votes on anything,” said Leahy. “I’d like to vote things up or vote them down.”

According to the U.S. Senate website: An oft-quoted story about the “coolness” of the Senate involves George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who was in France during the Constitutional Convention. Upon his return, Jefferson visited Washington and asked why the Convention delegates had created a Senate.

“Why did you pour that tea into your saucer?” asked Washington. 

"To cool it," said Jefferson. 

"Even so," responded Washington, "we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it."

Currently, the Senate rules require a 60-vote majority to invoke cloture and end debate and advance legislation to a final vote. 

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