Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants Democrats to preserve the legislative filibuster as part of a larger deal on organizing the new 50-50 Senate.
In a memo sent on Tuesday to fellow Republicans, McConnell said they must be provided assurances from the incoming Democratic majority that the 60-vote legislative threshold will not be eliminated in order to pass agenda items that Democrats are eager to advance over the objections of the GOP minority.
“I think that is a good position for us to take,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on Tuesday when asked about McConnell’s stance on the filibuster.
McConnell met for a half-hour on Tuesday with incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, who has not indicated his plans for the filibuster.
Schumer said after the meeting ended that the two men “discussed a whole lot of issues.”
McConnell would only describe “a good discussion” and provided no details about his talk with Schumer.
The two sides must work out a deal on running the Senate that as of Wednesday will be politically split down the middle. Democrats hold the majority when it comes to voting, thanks to the tiebreaking power of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Democrats will control the floor and run committees, but their control is less clear-cut because there is an equal number of GOP and Democratic senators.
In 2001, the last time the Senate was politically split, the parties evenly divided committees, staff, and money allocated to run the panels. It often led to gridlock.
Democrats are now eager to plow ahead with the agenda of President-elect Joe Biden, and many are warning they don’t plan to let Republican objections block them.
McConnell, in the letter to fellow Republicans, said the agreement must “also address the threats to the legislative filibuster.”
Some Democrats want to change the rules so that legislation passes with 51 votes, which would allow the party to pass bills over the objections of Republicans.
But at least five Democrats are opposed or undecided on eliminating the filibuster.
McConnell warned that a key bill could lure unwilling Democrats into agreeing to end the 60-vote threshold. All 50 Democrats and Harris would have to vote in support of the change.
McConnell warned the GOP that a deal was needed to maintain the filibuster “before the passions of one particular issue or another arise” that could prompt Democrats to make the change.
Democrats are eager to pass a “bold” agenda that includes a new round of coronavirus relief worth $1.9 trillion, which would also raise the minimum wage to $15 nationwide.
Other legislation includes an election and campaign finance reform bill that Republicans staunchly oppose.
The Senate ended the filibuster on executive and judicial branch nominees over the past decade.
McConnell and Schumer must also reach an agreement on the pace of confirming Biden’s Cabinet and other nominees, and they must also strike an accord on how the Senate would conduct an impeachment trial of President Trump, whose term ends Wednesday at noon.