Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) Monday became the most senior Republican lawmaker to support eliminating the filibuster in order to break an impasse over a Department of Homeland Security spending bill.
The Alabama Republican, the chairman of the powerful Senate Banking Committee, said Democrats had “broken the eggs” a year ago in using the so-called “nuclear option” to end filibusters of presidential nominees.
“My own view is we should go ahead and break some more eggs. It’s just a rule, it’s not a law, it’s a rule that the Senate sets. And the rule is that each Congress makes its own rule,” Shelby said.
Calls to end the filibuster had previously come from House backbenchers and conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. Several of Shelby’s colleagues indicated support for the move was not widespread within the GOP conference.
“Surely that’s not serious. I know people are frustrated, but that is not the way forward,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).
“It’s not [in the discussion] and it shouldn’t be. That would be pretty short-sighted,” added Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
But the embrace of a veteran senator such as Shelby, first elected to Congress in 1980 and to the Senate in 1992, may signify a shift in whether such a path is plausible.
“You never know around here, you never thought what the Democrats did a year or so, ago would ever come about. But it did,” Shelby said.
GOP critics of the plan have noted that President Obama has vowed to veto any bill that restricts implementation of his executive amnesty, meaning the rule change would not result in the enactment of the bill into law without a 2/3 majority required to override the veto under the Constitution.
But Shelby said the veto would clarify the issue.
“We’d also see what the president stands for, and the American people would see it,” he said.
Funding for DHS is scheduled to expire Friday under current law, and a shutdown would result in furloughs for some employees while most of the Department continued to work without immediate pay.
Democrats filibustered the bill to renew funding – that includes immigration restrictions – for the fourth time Monday, preventing it from coming to the floor for debate.