Mitch McConnell promised a 'nuclear winter' of contrarian tactics if Democrats get rid of the filibuster

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Mitch McConnell promised a 'nuclear winter' of contrarian tactics if Democrats get rid of the filibuster
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • McConnell said Senate negotiations would face a "nuclear winter" if Democrats bin the filibuster.
  • Senate aides told Axios he wasn't bluffing and would use other rules to frustrate Democrats.
  • Democrats dismiss his rhetoric, though they probably lack the support to scrap the entire measure.

Sen. Mitch McConnell has warned that the Senate would enter "a sort of nuclear winter" if Democrats were to scrap the filibuster.

The Senate minority leader made the comments on the conservative "Ruthless" podcast in an episode released Tuesday.

Senate aides told Axios that McConnell wasn't bluffing and that he would take strategic advantage of other Senate rules to frustrate Democrats and stall progress in the Senate.

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But Axios reported that his goal for now was to use apocalyptic language in a bid to scare Democrats away from wanting to scrap the legislative filibuster.

The filibuster is a prolonged debate used to prevent measures from being brought to a vote and to block legislation. It is commonly used by the minority party, in this case the GOP, and can be ended only if 60 out of the 100 senators agree to end the debate. The 60-vote requirement to end a filibuster effectively negates the fact that only a simple majority is needed to pass bills in the Senate.

As Insider's Erin Snodgrass previously reported, calls to get rid of the filibuster have increased since Democrats took control of Congress in January. The move could allow policies like increasing the minimum wage and tightening gun control to move forward more quickly.

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Democrats previously dismissed McConnell's rhetoric about the filibuster, including when he promised earlier this month to go "scorched earth" if Democrats got rid of it.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last week that McConnell "can do all the threatening and bluster he wants - it's not going to stop us."

Axios noted that Republicans could use other strategies to try to slow progress without the filibuster, including requiring roll calls that would force Senators to spend more time at the Capitol; putting Republicans forward for hourslong debates; and introducing long amendments to stretch out proceedings.

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Former President Donald Trump said this week that getting rid of the filibuster would be "catastrophic for the Republican Party."

Democrats in turn told Axios that Republican efforts to obstruct progress without the filibuster would only delay progress on their agenda and would not halt it entirely.

One senior Democratic aide told Axios: "In the end, this would be obstruction for the sake of obstruction."

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But as the Associated Press noted, Democrats don't appear to have enough support among their own senators to change the filibuster rule.

It requires 51 votes, which is the number of Democrats in the Senate, including Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaker, and some Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have already voiced objections to the change.

Democrats, however, may have enough votes to make other tweaks to the filibuster.

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