Senate Dems Want to Change the Subject from Obamacare to Nuclear Option

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the Senate Democrats’ attempt to focus on changing Senate rules rather than addressing the consequences of Obamacare:

“Over the past several weeks, the American people have been witness to one of the most breathtaking indictments of big-government liberalism in memory. And I’m not just talking about a web site.

“I’m talking about the way in which Obamacare was forced on the public by an administration and a Democrat-led Congress that we now know was willing to do and say just about anything to pass it into law.

“The President and his Democrat allies were so determined to force their vision of health care on the public that they assured them up and down that they wouldn’t lose the plans they had, that they’d save money instead of losing it, and that they’d be able to keep using the doctors and hospitals they were already using.

“But of course now we know that rhetoric just doesn’t match reality.

“And the stories we’re hearing on a near-daily basis now range from heartbreaking to comic.

“Just yesterday I saw a story about a guy getting a letter in the mail saying his dog had qualified for insurance under Obamacare. So yeah, I’d probably be running for the exits too if I had supported this law.

“I’d be looking to change the subject just as Senate Democrats have been doing with their threats of going nuclear and changing the Senate rules on nominations. If I were a senator from Oregon, which hasn’t enrolled a single person yet for its Obamacare exchange, I would probably want to shift the focus too.

“But here’s the problem with this latest distraction. It doesn’t distract people from Obamacare. It reminds them of it. It reminds them of all the broken promises. It reminds them of the power grab. It reminds them of the way Democrats set up one set of rules for themselves and another for everybody else.

“It’s basically the same debate.

“And rather than distract people from Obamacare, it only reinforces the narrative of a party that is willing to do and say just about anything to get its way. Because that’s just what they’re doing all over again.

“Once again, Senate Democrats are threatening to break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules of the Senate. And over what? Over a court that doesn’t even have enough work to do.

“Millions of Americans are hurting because of a law Washington Democrats forced upon them – and what do they do about it? They cook up some fake fight over judges that aren’t even needed.

“Look: I get it. As I indicated, I’d want to be talking about something else too if I had to defend dogs getting insurance while millions of Americans lost theirs. But it won’t work. And the parallels between this latest skirmish and the original Obamacare push are just too obvious to ignore.

“Think about it: The Majority Leader promised over and over again that he wouldn’t break the rules of the Senate in order to change them. On July 14 he went on ‘Meet the Press’ and he said: ‘We’re not touching judges.’

“He may as well just have said ‘If you like the rules of the Senate you can keep them.’

“Then there are the double standards.

“When Democrats were in the minority, they argued strenuously for the very thing they now say we will have to do without, namely the right to extended debate on lifetime appointments. In other words, they believe that one set of rules should apply to them, and another set to everyone else … just the way so many Democrats in the Administration and Congress now believe that Obamacare is good enough for their constituents, but that when it comes to them, their political allies, and their staffs – well, that’s different.

“And let’s not forget about the raw power at play here.

“On this point, the similarities between the Obamacare debate and the Democrat threat to go nuclear on nominations are inescapable. They muscled through Obamacare on a party-line vote and didn’t care about the views of the minority. And that’s just what they’re doing here too.

“The American people decided not to give Democrats the House or to restore the filibuster-proof majority they had in the Senate back in 2009, and our Democrat colleagues don’t like that one bit. So they’re trying to change the rules of the game to get their way.

“They’ve said so themselves.

“Earlier this year the Senior Senator from New York said they want to ‘fill up the D.C. Circuit one way or another.’

“And the reason is clear. As one liberal activist put it earlier this year, President Obama’s agenda ‘runs through the D.C. Circuit.’

“In short, unlike the first two years of the Obama Administration, there’s now a legislative check on the President. And the Administration doesn’t much like checks and balances. So it wants to circumvent the people’s representatives with an aggressive regulatory agenda, and our Democrat colleagues want to facilitate that by ‘filling up’ a court that will rule on his agenda — a court that doesn’t even have enough work to do. Especially if it means changing the subject from Obamacare for a few days.

“And get this: they think they can change the rules of the Senate in a way that benefits only them. They want to do it in such a way that President Obama’s agenda gets enacted, but that a future Republican president couldn’t get his or her picks for the Supreme Court confirmed by a Republican Senate using the same precedent our Democrat friends want to set. So they want to have it both ways. But this sort of gerrymandered vision of the nuclear option is really just wishful thinking.

“As the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee put it yesterday: ‘If [the Majority Leader] changes the rules for some judicial nominees, he is effectively changing them for all judicial nominees, including the Supreme Court.’

“Look: I realize this sort of wishful thinking might appeal to the uninitiated newcomers in the Democratic Conference who’ve served exactly zero days in the minority. But others in their conference should know better.

“Let’s remember how we got here.

“Let’s remember that it was Senate Democrats who pioneered the practice of filibustering Circuit Court nominees, and who’ve been its biggest proponents in the past. After President Bush was elected, they even held a retreat in which they discussed the need to change the ground rules by which lifetime appointments are considered. Then they started holding hearings to justify doing it. They made a big deal about it.

“It was all a prelude to what followed: the serial filibustering of several of President Bush’s Circuit Court nominees, including Miguel Estrada, whose nomination to the D.C. Circuit was filibustered by Senate Democrats a record seven times. And now they want to blow up the rules because Republicans are following a precedent they set themselves – and, I might add, we’re following that precedent in a much more modest way than Democrats did.

“So how about this for a suggestion: How about instead of picking a fight with Senate Republicans by jamming through nominees to a court that doesn’t even have enough work to do, how about taking yes for an answer and working with us on filling actual judicial emergencies, as I’ve repeatedly suggested.

“Yet rather than learn from the past precedents on judicial nominations that they themselves have set, Democrats now want to set another one. I have no doubt that if they do, they will come to regret that one as well. Our colleagues evidently would rather live for the moment, and try to establish a story line that Republicans are intent on obstructing President Obama’s judicial nominees — a story line that’s patently ridiculous in light of the facts. And here are the facts: before this current Democrat gambit to ‘fill up the D.C. Circuit one way or another,’ the Senate had confirmed 215 of the President’s judicial nominees and rejected a grand total of 2. That’s a confirmation rate of 99%.

“Clearly, Republicans have been willing to confirm the President’s judicial nominees. And on the D.C Circuit, we just confirmed the President’s last nominee to that court by a vote of 97 to 0.

“So I suggest our colleagues take a time-out, stop trying to jam us, and work with us instead to confirm vacancies that actually need to be filled.

“This rules change charade has gone from being a biennial threat, to an annual threat, to now a quarterly threat. It’s become a threat every time Senate Democrats don’t get their way.

“And their repeated promises at the end of every crisis, that they won’t threaten it again, just don’t seem to be worth any more than their promises on Obamacare.

“And this Democrat strategy of distract, distract, distract is getting old. Because the American people aren’t fooled.

“If our colleagues want to work with us to fill judicial vacancies that actually need to be filled, then let’s do it.

“If our colleagues want to work with us to spare the American people from the pain of Obamacare, then let’s do that.

“But if they want to play games and set yet another precedent that they will no doubt come to regret, well…that’s a choice only they can make.

“Let me be clear: the Democrat playbook of broken promises, double standards, and raw power…the same playbook that got us Obamacare…it has to end.

“That’s why Republicans are going to keep their focus where it belongs: on the concerns of the American people.

“It means we’re going to keep pushing to get back to the drawing board on health care – to replace Obamacare with real reforms that do not punish the middle class. And we’ll leave the political games to our friends on the other side.”

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