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GOP Congressman: ‘Republicans Have Effectively Given Chuck Schumer Operational Control of Senate’

CNSNews.com Staff
By CNSNews.com Staff | September 8, 2017 | 4:26 PM EDT

President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office on Sept. 7, 2017. (Screen Capture)

Rep. Tom McClintock (R.-Calif.) said on the House floor on Thursday that Senate Republicans had surrendered operational control of the Senate to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—and that the debt limit and spending dealt that President Donald Trump had made with Schumer was evidence of that.

McClintock argued that the ultimate problem was the Republican Senate leadership’s unwillingness to reform a cloture rule that allows the minority party to block virtually all substantive legislation that the minority does not want to see enacted.

He noted that, by contrast, the Senate had reformed the cloture rule on Supreme Court nominations, thus allowing the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch. But, then, House leaders fearing a filibuster in the Senate declined to move forward with a substantial repeal of Obamacare.

“Earlier this year, the Senate briefly recognized this and chose to reform cloture for Supreme Court nominations, but not for the legislation absolutely vital to the interests of our country,” McClintock said.

“The news yesterday that the President has now had to capitulate to Democratic demands on the debt limit should come as no surprise,” he said. “By failing to reform cloture, Senate Republicans have effectively given Chuck Schumer operational control of the Senate.”

“That is how we got wrapped around the axle on repealing and replacing Obamacare,” McClintock said. “The House could have passed a comprehensive bill that completely and cleanly abolished Obamacare and fully replaced it with all of the market and tax reforms that Republicans agreed with and campaigned on, popular reforms that put consumers back in charge of their healthcare decisions and placed those decisions within their financial reach.

“Instead,” he said, “the House leadership chose to attempt this through a budget process called reconciliation, a process completely unsuited for complex policy reform. They did so for one reason: to bypass the Senate cloture rule.”

Here is the full text of McClintock’s speech as reported in the Congressional Record:

Mr. MCCLINTOCK. Mr. Speaker, weeks after the 2016 election, I spoke on the House floor and warned that the greatest single obstacle to meeting the expectations of the American people was the cloture rule in the Senate. I said: ‘‘Voters elected Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress and they expect action. They’ll get it from the President and from the House. But in order for the Senate to rise to this occasion, it must reform its cloture rule.’’

Well, it didn’t.

Now, cloture is the Senate motion to conclude debate, and it is based on a sound parliamentary principle that as long as a significant minority—currently, Members of the Senate—want to continue to debate, that debate should continue. This principle assumes it is an actual debate between real people regarding the merits of the subject directly at hand, but that is not what cloture has become.

Today, any Senator can block virtually any bill simply by filing a protest, and until 60 of the 100 Senators agree to take up the bill, it cannot be heard. Thus, a motion designed to protect debate has now degenerated into a motion that very effectively prevents debate. It also hands practical control of the Senate to the Democratic minority, which can effectively veto any proposal by the majority, essentially reversing the result of the last election.

This is not some act of God or constitutional constraint that has been forced upon the Senate. No, this is a deliberate choice by Senate Republicans not to reform their cloture rule. It has rendered the Senate dysfunctional and, with it, the Congress.

Earlier this year, the Senate briefly recognized this and chose to reform cloture for Supreme Court nominations, but not for the legislation absolutely vital to the interests of our country.

The news yesterday that the President has now had to capitulate to Democratic demands on the debt limit should come as no surprise. By failing to reform cloture, Senate Republicans have effectively given CHUCK SCHUMER operational control of the Senate.

That is how we got wrapped around the axle on repealing and replacing ObamaCare. The House could have passed a comprehensive bill that completely and cleanly abolished ObamaCare and fully replaced it with all of the market and tax reforms that Republicans agreed with and campaigned on, popular reforms that put consumers back in charge of their healthcare decisions and placed those decisions within their financial reach.

Instead, the House leadership chose to attempt this through a budget process called reconciliation, a process completely unsuited for complex policy reform. They did so for one reason: to bypass the Senate cloture rule. By adhering to the very limited and restricted requirements of budget reconciliation, the House produced a mangled, tangled mess that fell well short of the reforms we had promised and, ultimately, failed to receive even a simple majority of the Senate.

Those who supported this process argued that a clean, complete, comprehensive bill would have been dead on arrival in the Senate for lack of Democratic votes for cloture. Well, I doubt that. Quite the contrary. Had the House done its job through regular order rather than trying to cover for the Senate Republicans’ bad choice, one of two things would have happened: Senate Democrats would have been seen as the single obstacle to a popular, comprehensive reform while ObamaCare continued to implode and, quite possibly, eight of the most vulnerable Democrats would ultimately have crossed party lines and supported this rescue of our healthcare system; or, far more likely, Senate Republicans would have been forced to come to the same conclusion that they came to with respect to the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch and reform this rule.

Certainly, we couldn’t have been any worse off than we are today. I would ask that, henceforth, the House leadership stop covering for the Senate Republicans and move all of the legislation that we promised the American people to the Senate through regular order. It is time we left the management of the Senate to the Senate, stopped enabling their atrocious judgment on not reforming cloture, and made it very clear to the American public why the reforms they entrusted us to enact aren’t being sent to the President.

Senator Dirksen once noted, when they feel the heat, they see the light. It is time the House and the American people adopted this maxim.


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