Sen. Orrin Hatch wants Republicans to keep the filibuster for "protection for the minority"

"It's the only way to protect the minority, and we're in the minority a lot more than we've been in the majority"

By Matthew Rozsa
Published November 17, 2016 2:09PM (EST)

Republicans like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker may be telling reporters that they want to abolish the filibuster, but one powerful Senator won't hear of it — Senate president pro tempore Orrin Hatch.

“Are you kidding?” Hatch said in an interview with The Huffington Post on Thursday. “I’m one of the biggest advocates for the filibuster. It’s the only way to protect the minority, and we’ve been in the minority a lot more than we’ve been in the majority. It’s just a great, great protection for the minority.”

Hatch isn't alone in objecting to the idea of eliminating the filibuster. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina echoed the same thoughts on Tuesday, telling reporters that getting rid of it would be "a horrible, horrible idea" and that he'd vote against any effort to do so "in a heartbeat."

The opposition by Hatch and Graham is more than merely symbolic. In order for the filibuster to be revoked via the so-called "nuclear option," 51 votes would have to be counted in favor of doing so. Right now Republicans only have 51 members of the Senate lining up for them compared to 48 for the Democrats (Bernie Sanders, though registered as an independent, caucuses with the Democrats). Even if the GOP wins the Louisiana Senate race on Dec. 10 and acquires 52 votes, the loss of Hatch and Graham will require Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote in order to eliminate the filibuster.

If any other Republicans refuse to revoke it, then doing so will be legally impossible.

The irony in the GOP's opposition to filibustering, of course, is the fact that Senate Republicans filibustered President Obama's judicial and other appointments with a regularity that many political observers found alarming. Now that a Republican is in the White House, of course, they have a vested interest in opposing the obstructionist tool. The fact that it may hurt them in the 2018 midterm elections probably factors into their thinking as well.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Filibuster Orrin Hatch Republicans Senate United States Senate