Senate GOP hears but doesn't plan to take Trump's advice on health care

There are no plans to scrap the 60-vote threshold in favor of a simple majority.

July 31, 2017, 8:34 PM

— -- Senate Republicans responded to the legislative advice given by the White House over the weekend with the particular brand of disdain reserved for people who try to tell senators what to do.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, made it clear that his colleagues would not be heeding the words of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who said on CNN that "they can't move on in the Senate" unless lawmakers address health care.

"I don’t think he’s got much experience in the Senate, as I recall, and he’s got a big job. He ought to do that job and let us do our job," Cornyn said with a wink as he entered the Senate chamber Monday evening.

The fact that Mulvaney, a former House member from South Carolina, served in the lower congressional chamber likely made it an even more difficult directive for senators to hear.

President Donald Trump also tweeted repeatedly over the weekend that the Senate should scrap the 60-vote threshold needed to advance most legislation and reduce it to a simple majority. (Not that that would have helped in the case of health care, which failed to attract 51 votes in favor.)

While the so-called nuclear option was invoked to reduce the necessary votes for executive and judicial branch nominees, senators on both sides of the aisle have agreed that the 60-vote requirement should stay in place for bills in order to preserve the voice of the Senate minority.

In April, a bipartisan group of 61 senators wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urging him not to touch the legislative filibuster. McConnell has reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining the 60-votes needed, saying it’s a key function of the chamber.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., wrote Trump’s tweet off as the venting of a frustrated leader.

"It’s just not a realistic suggestion," he said. "[Trump]’s envisioning this world where Congress can do everything at 51 and he can move his agenda, which I get. It’s frustrating, I’m sure, if you’re the president. But the Senate’s a different institution for a lot of reasons and that rule is in place to protect the rights of the minority."

And Democrats took issue with the notion, as Trump tweeted, that they would scrap the 60-vote requirement for bills if they regained power.

"When we were in power we never did because we respect this institution," she said.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who was riding in an elevator with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., when the question was asked, deferred to her on the laughter part of the tweet: "Patty can speak to that issue better than me because she would know whether they would laugh or not."

But Corker appeared at a loss for words when asked to weigh in.

"I know there’s frustration and newness in the job, but I think -- I’ll just leave it at that,” he said.

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