For the first time in a decade, Democrats control the White House while enjoying narrow majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, presenting the party with a key leadership test that could decide whether its majority will persevere after 2022.
This test lies with the elimination of the filibuster—a rule that imposes a 60 vote rule for most bills to move past debate, including legislation Democrats campaigned on: gun law reform, expanded voting rights, LGBTQ civil rights protections, and more.
With only 50 Democrats in the Senate, it's nearly impossible for even the most popular influential bills to gain 10 Republican supporters, thereby making them dead on arrival.
Most Democrats say the filibuster encourages the minority rule the founding fathers warned against, and was largely deployed to protect racist Jim Crow laws.
But while many Senate Democrats have voiced support for eliminating the filibuster, at least two Democrats—Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—say it's a nonstarter.
Manchin, however, has expressed some willingness to implement reforms allowing for some minority party input without kneecapping the majority party's agenda, such as lowering the 60 vote threshold required to pass debate.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered an insidious rebuke of that possibility in a Tuesday Senate floor speech.
Mitch McConnell offers 'SCORCHED EARTH' filibuster warning www.youtube.com
McConnell warned that eliminating the 60 vote rule would result in a scorched earth Senate beyond any of their imaginations once the Republican party took power again.
The Senate Minority Leader said:
"Everything that Democratic Senates did to Presidents Bush and Trump, everything the Republican Senate did to President Obama, would be child's play compared to the disaster that Democrats would create for their own priorities if — if — they break the Senate."
That threat isn't empty coming from McConnell, whose tenure as Senate Majority Leader was marked by a refusal to pass almost all legislation sent by the Democratic House of Representatives, and the unwillingness to even consider the final Supreme Court nominee of former President Barack Obama.
Senator McConnell even eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court Justices in order to get former President Donald Trump's nominations on the nation's highest court.
Twitter wasn't scared of McConnell's threats, noting his long history of scorched earth tactics.
Mitch McConnell eliminated filibuster to steal 2 Supreme Court seats for Trump but wants to keep it to block HR1 &… https://t.co/tRatJFc4xf— Ari Berman (@Ari Berman)1615906130.0
"Scorched earth?" Mitch, PLEASE. You shamelessly rammed your radical-right agenda through as Majority Leader. We m… https://t.co/re50mwRH8D— Eric Swalwell (@Eric Swalwell)1615918207.0
As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell blocked: --The release of the Mueller report --A Supreme Court nominee… https://t.co/fWH2hQ8czF— Robert Reich (@Robert Reich)1615921975.0
The filibuster in its contemporary form is younger than Billie Eilish and McConnell himself eliminated a major part… https://t.co/woVsNLrnKM— Scott Lemieux (@Scott Lemieux)1615424686.0
Many are urging Democrats not to buckle under McConnell's threats, and to pass H.R. 1, the landmark voting rights legislation that would curtail Republican efforts to limit access to the ballot box.
Mitch McConnell knows he can’t stop anything if the Democratic Majority kills the Filibuster. He also knows onc… https://t.co/PzoaXonxCJ— Chris Hahn (@Chris Hahn)1615917740.0
Mitch McConnell actually said out loud that if Democrats break up the filibuster he will see to it that the entire… https://t.co/k6V9V4wVmr— (not a) Dr Sally🇺🇸46 (@(not a) Dr Sally🇺🇸46)1615912049.0
Senate Democrats should be furious Mitch McConnell is threatening them.— Adam Parkhomenko (@Adam Parkhomenko)1615907898.0
Pro tip: always do the opposite of whatever Mitch McConnell wants. Abolish the filibuster.— Hamish Mitchell (@Hamish Mitchell)1615913151.0
Mitch McConnell is terrified that HR1 would spell the beginning of the end for the GOP. Good. Now go "scorched ea… https://t.co/gx6G0wTAkr— Jake Lobin (@Jake Lobin)1615916663.0
Mitch McConnell threatening to go full “scorched earth” if Dems eliminate the filibuster ignores the fact that he’l… https://t.co/fIgO9JLw0y— Ben Wexler (@Ben Wexler)1615906251.0
Without at least some level of filibuster reform if not outright elimination, it's hard to imagine how Democrats will implement the ambitious platform that delivered them legislative and executive power over the country.