Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) highlighted the blatant hypocrisy of Democrats, and particularly of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in an impassioned speech consisting entirely of Schumer’s past statements defending the legislative filibuster.
Ahead of President Joe Biden’s scheduled meeting with Democratic lawmakers to discuss a strategy to change the Senate’s rules and ram through his agenda, Cotton took to the Senate floor Wednesday to remind everyone how Schumer vigorously opposed such efforts in the past.
“Right now we are on the precipice of a constitutional crisis. We are about to step into the abyss,” Cotton said, quoting from a 2005 speech Schumer gave denouncing the so-called “nuclear option” of eliminating the filibuster — a 60-vote requirement to advance legislation in the Senate.
For months now, Schumer has attempted to persuade moderate Democrats to vote to end the filibuster to pass a federal overhaul of U.S. elections, as well as the majority of Biden’s economic agenda. On Jan. 3, he sent a letter to his Democratic colleagues announcing that the Senate would vote on a rules change, which led to widespread condemnation from Republicans and accusations of flagrant hypocrisy.
After all, as Cotton demonstrated, Schumer has a lengthy record of statements castigating Republicans for considering the nuclear option.
“Are senators merely doing their jobs as legislators, responding to a generalized public calling for the abolition of the filibuster? Clearly not,” Cotton said, reading from Schumer’s speech.
“It is not the American people at large who are demanding detonation of the nuclear option,” he said. “The nuclear option is being pushed largely by the radioactive rhetoric of a small band of radicals who hold in their hands the political fortunes of the president.”
Cotton also quoted from a speech Schumer gave in 2003, vigorously defending the filibuster as “embodied in the spirit and rule of the Constitution.”
“The Senate is not a majoritarian body,” Cotton quoted, thumping his podium for emphasis and mimicking Schumer’s speech patterns as he read through a litany of increasingly outrageous predictions the top Democrat made denouncing the nuclear option.
Schumer is not the only Democrat to flip his position on the filibuster. Biden, a former senator, also gave a 2005 speech passionately defending the filibuster.
“I think it may be one of the most important speeches for historical purposes that I will have given in the 32 years since I have been in the Senate,” Biden said at the time. “At its core, the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill — it’s about compromise and moderation,” he explained.
But in remarks given Tuesday, the president said Democratic lawmakers should change the Senate’s rules and advance a sweeping federal overhaul of U.S. elections to undo GOP-supported election integrity laws.
Biden will meet with the Senate Democratic Caucus on Thursday to “discuss the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections against un-American attacks based on the Big Lie, and to again underline that doing so requires changing the rules of the Senate to make the institution work again,” a White House official said Wednesday.
Democratic references to the “Big Lie” refer to former President Donald Trump’s unproven allegations that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.
Regardless of the president’s backing and Schumer’s hypocrisy, Senate Democrats lack the votes to end the filibuster. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reaffirmed his support for the filibuster hours before Biden delivered his speech on Tuesday. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) also remains opposed to ending the filibuster, as do several other lawmakers including Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who have so far flown under the radar while the two aforementioned senators have captured the attention and scorn of the mainstream media.