Alexander: If the Senate Doesn’t Follow Its Own Rules, How Can We Expect Americans to Follow the Rules We Write?

Says ending the legislative filibuster would be like allowing the home team to change the rules in the middle of the game, saying a nine yard gain is a first down, or a three point shot counts as four

Posted on December 21, 2018

WASHINGTON, December 21, 2018 — United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) defended the legislative filibuster tonight on the Senate floor saying, “We are a nation that prizes the rule of law. How can we expect Americans to follow the rules when their number one rule making institution, the United States Senate, will not follow its own rules?”


“This is a country that prizes the rule of law—I’ve heard President Trump say that, and I've heard President Obama say that. I've heard most of us say that, and I would ask if we don't follow our own rules, why would we expect the American people to follow the rules that we write? We are the main rule-writing organization in the United States, and we ought to follow our own rules.”


Alexander continued: “When we didn't and used the so-called nuclear option in 2013, a democratic senator who is greatly respected, Senator Carl Levin, said ‘a Senate—in which a majority can always change the rules is a Senate without any rules.’ A Senate in which the majority can always change the rules without following the rules is like a football game where the home team can say, if you gain nine yards, that's a first down or if you make a three-point shot, they count it as four points. That's not the rule of law.”


Alexander concluded: “I want to put a stop to this practice of the Senate breaking its rules to change its rules. I will not vote to turn the Senate into a rule-breaking institution, and I hope that my colleagues will not either.”


Senator Alexander inserted into the Congressional Record an April 2017 letter to Senate leadership led by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) that was signed by 61 Senators—29 Republicans and 32 Democrats—which said: “We are mindful of the unique role the Senate plays in the legislative process and we are steadfastly committed to ensuring that this great American institution continues to serve as the world’s greatest deliberative body. Therefore, we are asking you to join us in opposing any effort to curtail the existing rights and prerogatives of Senators to engage in full, robust, and extended debate as we consider legislation before this body in the future.”


Watch Senator Alexander’s floor remarks here.

Lamar Alexander is the senior senator from Tennessee, and he serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. For his full biography, click here.