Democrats took a razor-thin majority in the Senate earlier this year thanks to a pair of key victories in Georgia, but the filibuster threatens to kneecap any chance of passing the bold legislation they promised their voters.
The filibuster—which imposes a 60 vote threshold on most bills—was never a part of the Constitution, but Republicans and some moderate Democrats insist that it's necessary to give the minority party a voice in the chamber.
As of now, Democrats don't have the votes to completely eliminate the filibuster, but many of those opposed to its complete abolishment—like Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia—have expressed an openness to its reform.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in a scathing floor speech earlier this week, warned Democrats that any attempt to do away with the 60 vote threshold would result in a scorched earth Senate the likes of which they had never seen before.
McConnell told his colleagues:
"Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like."
Until January 20th, McConnell served as Senate Majority Leader, a tenure defined by his eagerness to ram through Republican initiatives and kill Democratic ones.
In 2016, after the death of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, McConnell refused to hold a Senate hearing to even consider then-President Barack Obama's nominee for his replacement, despite the President's Constitutional mandate to appoint one. The Supreme Court was with only eight Justices for a year as a result. McConnell's reasoning? It was too close to the election, which was 10 months away.
Flash forward to 2020 and the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. McConnell rammed through now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett's nomination, even though early voting had already begun for the 2020 election.
McConnell even became known as the "grim reaper" of the Senate for his insistence on killing any legislation sent by the Democratic-led House of Representatives.
So when reflecting on McConnell's warning in an interview with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), late night talk show host Stephen Colbert dismissed the threat with a sobering point.
TONIGHT: Senate Majority Leader @SenSchumer says he is not fazed by Sen. McConnell’s “empty threat" of a "scorched… https://t.co/yKWmIyudmx— A Late Show (@A Late Show) 1616114400.0
"What could possibly be more scorched earth than the way Mitch McConnell would just run roughshod the past four to eight years, really? Isn't he threatening that if you do this, Mitch McConnell would continue to be Mitch McConnell?"
Schumer echoed the sentiment, vowing that McConnell's warning wouldn't deter Democrats' determination.
Colbert's assertion and Schumer's response to it were met with widespread agreement.
Go get him! It’s time to take back America...or should I say move forward https://t.co/NchvhLETwl— Dr. Jimmy O’Shët, PsyD 🌊🌊🌊 (@Dr. Jimmy O’Shët, PsyD 🌊🌊🌊) 1616157288.0
I'm with @SenSchumer https://t.co/7avXaEvS6v— Mrs. H. #MaskUp #WashYourHands 💙 (@Mrs. H. #MaskUp #WashYourHands 💙) 1616155073.0
McConnell: If y'all take away my power to bring th' Senate to a halt away from me, FEAR how much I'll bring it to a… https://t.co/9KuRCtKnCE— John Hell Roberson, Rumored Cartoonist (@John Hell Roberson, Rumored Cartoonist) 1616115240.0
McConnell already created a scorched earth Senate.
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
Mitch McConnell summarily used the Senate's powers to remove President Obama's right to appoint Judges including a… https://t.co/a9sb1ACoh4— Grant Stern (@Grant Stern) 1615928758.0
Scorched earth McConnell is threatening to go scorched earth in the Senate if the majority takes away his ability t… https://t.co/AgKrlPJ3y4— Charles Booker (@Charles Booker) 1615945058.0
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
Denying Obama a SCOTUS seat & over 100 judges then getting rid of the filibuster for SCOTUS for 3 seats & 200+ judg… https://t.co/6Fy3dFLwxE— BlackWomenViews Media (@BlackWomenViews Media) 1615906397.0
Mitch McConnell took a flamethrower to the Senate after President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for SCOTUS. Now w… https://t.co/3zM1Z3erqp— Seth Abramson (@Seth Abramson) 1615995435.0
Hasn't McConnell been going scorched Earth for years now? What more are they going to do that they wouldn't do alre… https://t.co/VZraI9bFzT— faith 🇺🇲🌊 (@faith 🇺🇲🌊) 1615932166.0
The Senate will soon take up the For The People Act, a landmark voting rights bill recently passed by the House. It's likely to make the filibuster talks even more urgent.