As the Senate stands at an impasse over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security over the issue of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, some conservatives in the House are urging the Senate to change the filibuster rules. They argue that House Republican bills could get then through the upper chamber more easily.
The idea gained traction this morning at a conservative event on the Hill where Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho and Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas both encouraged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take away the right of Democrats to filibuster. Labrador said, "Mitch McConnell can change the rules of the Senate, and this is important enough to change the rules of the Senate,” according to National Journal.
Later at a joint press conference, House and Senate Republicans took turns decrying Senate Democrats for not allowing a vote on the Republican DHS bill. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina encouraged McConnell to “take away the ability to filibuster without actually working, make them go to the floor, make them speak, make them stand there for 18 hours.” Currently, a senator can stage stage a filibuster without having to be present on the Senate floor.
Yet at the very same press conference on the very same stage, cold water was thrown on that idea by the very Republican who has used the filibuster perhaps most effectively over his time in Congress — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. When asked by NBC News about House conservatives demands for a rule change, Cruz replied, “I think the Senate rules wisely protect the minority and they have served as the framers put it ‘to allow the Senate to be the -- cooler -- the saucer that cools the hot temperatures of the moment.”
“The answer, I believe, is not to change the Senate rules, the answer is for Senate Democrats not to be obstructionists,” Cruz added.
The irony that Cruz, who Democrats mockingly say is the de facto leader of House Conservatives, called for restraint on changing filibuster rules was not lost on some seasoned Hill observers. One GOP aide told NBC News, “hopefully after hearing him [Cruz] they realize changing decades of Senate history six weeks into our majority is not a good idea.”
Democrats, newly emboldened by their ability to block legislation in the minority giddily pointed to McConnell’s comments when Sen. Harry Reid moved to change the filibuster rules regarding executive nominees in 2013 when he was majority leader. McConnell said then, “It only reinforces the narrative of party willing to do or say just about anything to get its way.”
If an agreement cannot be reached, the Department of Homeland Security will run out of money on February 27th.