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Dick Durbin, No. 2 Senate Dem, comes out in favor of filibuster reform

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Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin has come out in favor of reforming the filibuster, calling it a “weapon of mass obstruction” — as Senate Majority Chuck Schumer reveals that “everything is on the table” to achieve the Democrats’ legislative goals.

Speaking Monday from the Senate floor, Durbin (D-Ill.) called on his colleagues to join him in supporting filibuster reform, saying it was “making a mockery of American democracy.”

“The filibuster is still being misused by some Senators to block legislation urgently needed and supported by strong majorities of the American people,” Durbin, who also serves as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, continued.

“This is what hitting legislative rock bottom looks like. Today’s filibusters have turned the world’s most deliberative body into one of the world’s most ineffectual bodies.”

The filibuster is a Senate rule requiring 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.

The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris has a tie-breaking vote. Still, 51 votes are not enough under current rules to break through the filibuster.

Prior to Monday, Durbin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had been vague on their filibuster stances, with both saying that they had not committed either way.

Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.
Durbin says the filibuster is being “misused” and “making a mockery of American democracy.”
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag

In his Monday floor speech, Durbin argued that if opposition members wanted to use the tool to their advantage, it should be difficult for them to do so.

“If a senator insists on blocking the will of the Senate, he [or she] should have to pay some minimal price of being present. No more phoning it in. If your principles are that important, stand up for them, speak your mind, hold the floor, and show your resolve,” the 76-year-old lawmaker said, adding that he supported discussing “any proposal that ends the misuse of the filibuster.”

“If the Senate retains the filibuster, we must change the rules so that a Senator who wants to bring our government to a standstill endures – at least – some discomfort in the process. We need new rules that actually promote debate.”

Durbin’s comments come as Democrats face escalating pressure from progressives to abolish the filibuster to enable the body to pass some of the more ambitious legislative efforts that would otherwise not reach 60 votes.

While speaking to MSNBC Monday night, Schumer said that “everything is on the table” when it comes to filibuster reform, given that the party will only be able to work around it so many times.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) at the U.S. Capitol November 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Durbin joins other Democratic senators calling to reform the filibuster.
Getty Images

“We would welcome Republican support, no question about it, and maybe some of them will see the light on some of these issues. But if we don’t get Republican support, we have to move forward with big, bold action, and our caucus will come together, we will figure out the best way to go,” he said.

“Everything, everything will be on the table. And we will move forward, we have to,” he continued, adding that they would “test” their Republican colleagues by bringing up bills for a vote that he believed those lawmakers would not want to vote against.

“If they go along with us, great. But if not, as I said we’re going to have to put our caucus together, put our heads together in our caucus and figure out the best way to go. Everything’s on the table.”

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