Durbin: To State That The Filibuster Has No Racial History Is To Ignore the Obvious

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today pushed back against an argument that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made yesterday when he stated, “[the filibuster] has no racial history at all.  None.”  Durbin reminded his colleagues that the filibuster has been used, going back as far as the early 19th century, to block civil rights laws by segregationists.  It was used for decades to block measures meant to protect African Americans—including bills making lynching a federal crime and outlawing poll taxes, as well as measures banning racial discrimination in employment, housing, and voting.  Now, with Americans of all backgrounds calling for the need to address ongoing systemic racism and injustices, some Senate Republicans are vowing to use the filibuster once again to prevent the Senate from passing laws to safeguard civil rights and American democracy, including measures to protect voting rights. 

Durbin has voiced his support for reform of the filibuster and called on his colleagues to join him in this effort.  Durbin has argued that there are many options of reform worth considering, including the “standing filibuster.”

“There was a statement made by Senator McConnell, the Republican Leader, yesterday which is nothing short of amazing.  At a press conference, he said of the filibuster, and I quote, ‘it has no racial history at all.  None.’  Amazing that he would say that.  If you go back and study the history of this body, John Caldwell Calhoun, the Senator from South Carolina, started in the early parts of the 19th century of using this debate to protect slave states, to protect the interest of the southern states… then fast forward to the 1960’s.  Richard Russell of Georgia, he was the legislative architect of the filibuster that stopped the civil rights bills in the 1960’s.  Certainly, Senator McConnell, who was working in the Senate at that time as an intern, if I’m not mistaken, must remember the filibuster being used against the civil rights bill.  And to say that the filibuster has no racial history at all, none, is to ignore the obvious.” 

Durbin continued, “We’ve got to be productive in this session of the Senate.  After the last four years, we’ve seen the Senate really break down to the point where we weren’t productive at all… there are things that need to be done… one of them that certainly needs to be done is to protect America’s right to vote.” 

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.