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senate battles

Mitch McConnell darkly threatens 'scorched earth Senate' if Democrats eliminate the filibuster

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is turning up the pressure against some Democrats' efforts to eliminate the filibuster.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, McConnell imagined a filibuster-free future, painting a grim picture: "Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like," he said. Without the filibuster, he predicted the Senate would be "a 100 car pile-up" where "nothing moves."

Some Democrats are hoping to nix the filibuster, which requires a supermajority of 60 votes to pass most pieces of legislation. Moderate Democrats and Republicans are opposed, and Politico's Burgess Everett described a blown up filibuster as the GOP's "biggest threat in the short-term."

Because of that concern, McConnell threatened to push a long list of conservative policies with "zero input" from Democrats if only a simple majority is required. He listed defunding Planned Parenthood, penalizing sanctuary cities, and a national right to work law. McConnell continued by warning he'd require a quorum for everything, making past actions seem like "child's play," reports Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman.

Though it's unclear why McConnell would be opposed to more easily passing his legislative priorities, there are a few reasons Democrats may not be too worried by his threats regardless. NBC News' Benjy Sarlin notes that many of these conservative policies don't have the support of 50+ Republicans anyway, and the GOP didn't use every tool available to pass them even when they held all three branches of government. The Washington Post's Dave Weigel separately argues that many Democrats may feel conservative courts hold the power on some of these issues, so Republican senators' posturing is irrelevant.

Either way, analysts seem to agree with McConnell in his prediction of increased chaos and gridlock. With only 50 seats for each party, more frequent quorum requirements could "get messy quickly," and could lead to bills being passed out of pure spite.