Mitch McConnell Described as a Hypocrite For Defending the Filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who penned an opinion piece in the The New York Times Thursday warning Democrats against killing the Senate filibuster that requires a 60-vote threshold, has been criticized for being "an arsonist, bemoaning the fire he started."

"The legislative filibuster is directly downstream from our founding tradition. If that tradition frustrates the whims of those on the far left, it is their half-baked proposals and not the centuries-old wisdom that need retooling," McConnell wrote. "No Republican has any trouble imagining the laundry list of socialist policies that 51 Senate Democrats would happily inflict on Middle America in a filibuster-free Senate."

The response was swift. Progressive groups were quick to point out what they saw as a hypocrisy between McConnell's words and actions as a long-time Senate bigwig.

"What was once a rarely-used tool to protect the rights of the minority became, in McConnell's hands, a one-size-fits-all method of obstructing a popularly elected president's agenda. Now, McConnell is 'warning' Democrats not to tamper with the filibuster if and when they take back the Senate," Stasha Rhodes, campaign manager of grassroots organization 51 for 51 which is pushing to get Washington D.C. a Senate vote, wrote in a statement Thursday.

McConnell is "an arsonist, bemoaning the fire he started," she said. "Support for the filibuster is the wrong lesson to learn from McConnell's reign as leader of the Senate Republicans."

Several Democratic candidates have suggested they'd be open to ending the rule, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who recently said "everything stays on the table."

Speaking at the Iowa State Fair last week, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg told a crowd that "when we do [take the Senate majority], it will be time to put an end to the filibuster that has gotten in the way of so much good policy in this country."

But some say the comments are rich coming from McConnell, who is known for manipulating Senate rules and norms to benefit himself and his party. McConnell famously denied the confirmation of former president Barack Obama's pick for Supreme Court justice Merrick Garland because "this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame duck president," and said early on he would attempt to block any piece of legislation brought to the Senate by Obama. "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," he said of his role in the Senate at the time.

Mitch McConnell
Activists hold signs while demonstrating outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on August 6, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. Luke Sharrett/Getty

Earlier this month, former Democratic Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote an opinion piece for the Times advocating to end the filibuster.

"What is happening today is a far cry from what the framers intended," he wrote. "Republicans over the past decade — knowing their policies are unpopular and that obstruction benefits them politically — perfected and increased the gratuitous use of the filibuster. Even routine Senate business is now subject to the filibuster and Republicans' seeming obsession with gridlock and obstruction."