Romney: Democrats Conveniently Ignore Their Own Impassioned Defense of the Filibuster

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Democrats’ radical attempts to remake our governmental institutions by eliminating the Senate filibuster.

Romney’s remarks can be found below, and video can be found here.

Mr. President, I prepared some remarks to give this evening, but I had the occasion to watch President Biden as he spoke in Georgia just a few minutes ago, and he said quite a number of things that simply weren’t true. He also accused a number of my good and principled colleagues in the Senate of having sinister, even racist inclinations. He charged that voting against his bill allies us with Bull Connor, George Wallace, and Jefferson Davis. So much for unifying the country and working across the aisle. 

More troubling however, he said that the goal of some Republicans is to “turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion.” And so, President Biden goes down the same tragic road taken by President Trump—casting doubt on the reliability of American elections. This is a sad, sad day. I expected more of President Biden, who came into office with the stated goal of bringing the country together.

Our country has defied the odds for a democratic republic; it has survived and thrived for over 200 years. The character of the American people deserves most of the credit for that. But close behind are our vital institutions.

Over the last several years, many of us recoiled as foundational American institutions have been repeatedly demeaned: the judiciary was charged with racial bias; the press was called the enemy of the people; justice and intelligence agencies were belittled; public health agencies were dismissed; even our election system was accused of being rigged.

The United States Senate is one of our vital democratic institutions, and the power given to the minority in the Senate and the resulting requirement for political consensus are among the Senate’s defining features.

Note that in the federal government, empowerment of the minority is established through only one institution: the Senate. The majority decides in the House; the majority decides in the Supreme Court; and the president, of course, is a majority of one. Only in the Senate does the minority restrain the power of the majority.

That a minority should be afforded such political power is a critical element of this institution. For a law to pass in the Senate, it must appeal to senators in both parties. This virtually assures that the bill did not originate from the extreme wing of either one, and thus best represents the interests of the broadest swath of Americans. The Senate’s minority empowerment has meant that America’s policies inevitably tack towards the center. As Senator Biden previously affirmed: “At its core, the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill, it’s all about compromise and moderation.”

Consider how different the Senate would be without the filibuster. Whenever one party replaced the other as majority, tax and spending priorities would change, safety net programs would change, national security policy could change. Cultural issues would careen from one extreme to the other, creating uncertainty and unpredictability for families, for employers, and for our friends abroad.

The need to marshal 60 votes requires compromise and middle ground, it empowers the minority, and it has helped to keep us centered as a nation, fostering the stability and predictability that are essential for investments in people, in capital, and in the future.

Abandoning the principle of minority empowerment would fundamentally change a distinct and essential role of the United States Senate. But today’s Democrats, now with the barest of majorities in a 50-50 Senate, conveniently ignore their own impassioned defense of the filibuster when they were in the minority. 

Let us be clear that those who claim the filibuster is racist know better. For President Obama to make this absurd charge after he himself made a vigorous and extensive defense of the filibuster just a few years ago, is both jarring and deeply disappointing. After all, I don’t recall a single claim from Democrats that employing the filibuster hundreds of times over the years when they were in the minority, was in any way racist.

Over the course of my life, I have found that when presented with a matter of personal advantage that would require abandoning principles, the human mind goes to work overtime to rationalize taking that advantage. 

Only a few months ago, some of my Senate colleagues—Democrat colleagues—rationalized that the Senate couldn’t function and therefore they had to get rid of the 60 vote rule. But then the Senate functioned quite well when it passed the infrastructure bill, armed services legislation, and a bill on innovation. So a few months later, some of these colleagues argued that in order to raise the debt ceiling, the 60 vote rule has to go. Then with bipartisan cooperation the Senate raised the debt ceiling.

So now the Democrats’ latest rationalization is that their partisan new election law must be passed. But Democrats have filed these voting bills numerous times over numerous years, always without seeking Republican involvement in drafting them. Anytime legislation is crafted and sponsored exclusively by one party, it is obviously an unserious partisan effort.

Let me note two more truths.

The country is sharply divided right now. Despite the truth spoken by a number of good people in my party, most Republicans believe Donald Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent, stolen by Democrats—that’s almost half the country. Can you imagine the anger that would be ignited if they see Democrats alone rewrite, with no Republican involvement whatsoever, the voting laws of the country? If you want to see division and anger, the Democrats are heading down the right road.

There is also a reasonable chance Republicans will win both houses in Congress, and that Donald Trump himself could once again be elected president in 2024. Have Democrats thought what it would mean for them—for the Democrat minority—to have no power whatsoever?

And finally, Mr. President, I offer this thought: How absurd is it to claim that to save a democracy, a party that represents barely half the country must trample on the rules of our democracy’s senior institution.