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McConnell Calls Democrats Plans to Change Filibuster 'Radical', Could 'Break the Senate'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is threatening to change the rules for the filibuster to pass nationwide Democrat-backed election reforms.

The effort has been stalled in the evenly-divided Senate, lacking the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called plans to scrap the procedural rule a radical move that threatens to "break the Senate."

"Based on what the majority leader said he's going to try to break the Senate. Break the legislative filibuster to make some kind of narrow exception. There is no such thing as a narrow exception. This, in my view, is genuine radicalism," McConnell said. 

Schumer needs all 50 Democrats to vote in favor to make the change.

Two holdout Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have tried to warn their party off changes to the Senate rules, arguing that if and when Republicans take majority control of the chamber they can then use the lower voting threshold to advance bills Democrats strongly oppose.

Manchin has signaled that he might not be on board if there's no bipartisan support.

The senator told reporters it was his "absolute preference" that Republicans support any changes and he described acting on a purely partisan basis as a "heavy lift." Still, he did not slam the door completely shut, saying he was exploring "the options we have open."

"I think that for us to go it alone, no matter what side does, it ends up coming back at you pretty hard," Manchin said.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, argued on Monday that ending the filibuster would turn the Senate into a "Lord of the Flies"-style institution where majority rules, no matter what.

"It is absurd and dangerous to the institution itself," said Lee in a statement. He said Schumer and his "disastrous plan" must be stopped.

How the Senate filibuster rules would be changed remains under discussion.

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