Alabama’s Luther Strange Flip-Flops on Senate Filibuster Rule

UNITED STATES - APRIL 4: Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., participates in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on efforts to protect U.S. energy delivery systems from cybersecurity threats on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Under pressure from his Republican primary special election rival, Roy Moore, Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) has flip-flopped on the issue of ending the Senate filibuster rule.

A statement released by his office on Tuesday said Strange “is sending a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer demanding that the filibuster rule be changed to allow a simple majority in the Senate to invoke cloture and proceed to debate on legislation. The rule currently requires 60 votes.”

It was a dramatic last minute reversal for Strange, who trails Moore in the September 26 Republican primary runoff election for the U.S. Senate seat to which disgraced former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, appointed him in February. Strange was one of sixty senators who signed a letter on April 7 addressed to both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), which stated, “We are writing to urge you to support our efforts to preserve existing rules, practices and traditions as they pertain to the rights of Members to engage in extended debate on legislation before the United States Senate.”

But at a press conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, Strange said “he will deliver a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer withdrawing his signature from a letter that supported the filibuster rule,” reported:

“I respectfully withdraw my signature from the aforementioned letter and instead make a declaration that it is necessary for Republican Senate Leadership to work to change the filibuster rule, as President Trump as [sic] requested, and give the American people’s Senators the opportunity to debate on any legislation that can receive a simple majority vote,” the letter to McConnell and Schumer states.

In the letter, Strange says he is “disheartened” by Republican colleagues who are “unwilling to put politics aside in order to accomplish the will of the American people by moving the priorities of President Donald J. Trump forward.”

Strange said he has already spoken with McConnell about his change of heart.

Throughout the campaign, Strange’s Republican primary runoff opponent, Roy Moore, has supported President Trump’s call to end the Senate filibuster rule.

On August 23, for instance, “in response to President Trump’s Wednesday morning Tweets pushing to eliminate the filibuster rule, Moore responded via Twitter that he ‘couldn’t agree more, Mr. President,'” as Breitbart News reported:

As recently as July 6, in a public forum in which Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate special primary election participated, Strange vigorously opposed ending the filibuster.

In late July, reported, “Trump fired off a series of four tweets Saturday blasting the filibuster as well as a fifth tweet Sunday, calling on the Senate to remove it. The president described the filibuster as ‘outdated.'”

The outlet continued, “‘Republicans in the Senate will NEVER win if they don’t go to a 51-vote majority NOW,’ Trump tweeted Saturday. ‘They look like fools and are just wasting time.'”

Throughout the campaign, in contrast, Judge Moore has consistently called for an end to the Senate filibuster rule.

In August, Strange finished in second place to Judge Roy Moore in the Republican primary special election to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), now U.S. attorney general. President Trump had surprisingly endorsed Strange prior to that election but has appeared to back off from that support subsequently.

Moore and Strange are now facing off in the Republican primary runoff election to be held in Alabama on September 26. The winner of that primary election will face the Democratic primary winner in the December 12 general election. The Republican nominee is heavily favored to win that election.

But behind in the polls, and with only three weeks to make up the gap, Strange flip-flopped on the critical Senate filibuster rule issue on Tuesday.

“Alabamians overwhelmingly supported the election of Donald Trump to the White House and expect his agenda to be enacted by Congress. But because of obstructionist tactics by Democrats and broken promises by some Republicans, very little legislation is even making it to the Senate floor,” Strange said in the statement released by his office:

While I had hoped that Republicans and Democrats would work together to accomplish the will of the American people, it has become obvious that politics and self-preservation will continue to rule the day. Conversations with the President have led me to the conclusion that changing the filibuster rule is the only way we will be able to build the border wall, rein in sanctuary cities, defund Planned Parenthood, and give the American people real tax relief. It’s time to give our President and the American people what they are asking for.

Shortly after Strange’s announcement of his flip-flop, his campaign attacked Judge Moore.

Luther Strange posted a YouTube video on Tuesday with a graphic image asserting, “Roy Moore calls for filibuster to stay in place – even for SCOTUS confirmations.”

The undated audio recording included in the YouTube purports to be of a podcast interview of Moore conducted by the Christian Emergency League, which appears to have been done prior to the nomination and confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court in April.

The actual transcript states:

Question: In your opinion, should the Republicans in the Senate go with the nuclear option so it doesn’t take 60 senators to approve the next Justice?

Answer: Well, I think they should keep the framework they’ve got. Whatever framework they use, it should be … but I think, considering these candidates, they’ve got to be sworn to uphold the Constitution. That doesn’t mean to make a new one. If they … the role of the judiciary is judgment, and that doesn’t include legislation.

In the recording, Moore does not “call for the filibuster to stay in place,” as Strange claimed.


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