McConnell’s Faulty Logic: A Cloture Vote To Begin Senate Debate Actually Means A Vote To End It

Time and again, Republicans have urged Democrats to “slow down” and “start over” in the course of pursuing their agenda. In his role as chief obstructionist, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has used “his extensive knowledge of Senate procedure to slow things down” and has forged unity among his caucus to filibuster the Democrats’ agenda. Today, McConnell will once again try to stop reform.

At 5 pm today, the Senate will hold a cloture vote on a Democratic plan to overhaul regulation of Wall Street. If the Democrats can muster the 60 votes needed to end a Republican filibuster, it would begin a process of commencing a 30 hour debate, filing amendments, and ultimately holding a vote.

This past Sunday, McConnell pledged that his caucus would hang together to filibuster the vote. On the Senate floor earlier today, McConnell offered a backwards-logic explanation for the GOP’s obstruction:

MCCONNELL: A vote for cloture is a vote that says we’re done listening to the American people on this issue. And a vote against ending this debate is a vote for bipartisanship, for working out an iron-clad solution to the problem of Too Big to Fail. A vote against ending this debate tonight is a vote that says it’s no longer enough to tell our constituents to trust us. It’s a vote that says this time, we’ll prove it.

Watch it:

In fact, a vote for cloture simply means that the Senate is going to begin a final debate on the bill. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on the floor today, “This afternoon’s vote is a vote merely to begin debate. It’s not the end of the process, just the beginning.” Reid added that the debate would be “broadcast live” on C-Span.


The public is steadfastly on the side of concluding this debate. About two-thirds of respondents in a new Washington Post survey say they support “stricter regulations on the way banks and other financial institutions conduct their business.” Nevertheless, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) affirmed that “41 Republicans right now are going to stand together” to stop the debate from proceeding.

Matt Yglesias writes, “On financial regulation, over the months I’ve heard a number of Republican Senators say reasonablish things about the bill, or about problems with the bill. But it’s time to put up or shut up. If you’re concerned the bill doesn’t address something, then write an amendment to address it. If you think the bill is too tough in some respect, then write an amendment to weaken it. There’s no good reason to insist that everything be done in a secret Shelby-Dodd negotiating process.”