January 13, 2022
"The President of the United States President called half the country a bunch of racist bigots. He doesn’t believe that... President Biden ought to have the courage to stand up to his own staff and he ought to be enough of a man to apologize to the Senate and to the American people for the nonsense he said in Georgia.”
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, spoke on the Senate floor in defense of the filibuster and called out President Biden for his disgusting attacks on Democratic and Republican Senators earlier this week.
Full transcript is available below.
Thank you, Mr. President. I want to commend the senior Senator from Arizona for an extraordinary stand of courage and just a great speech on the floor a few minutes ago. Mr. President, I rise today to defend the filibuster again from the latest round of attacks. I did this repeatedly in the last administration, earning the ire and frustration of the president of my own party over and over again as I defended the Senate's purpose, and the supermajority requirements that forge a consensus in a big, broad, diverse continental nation.
Today, I rise to defend the filibuster again when it's the president of the other party who's decided to go full demagogue. For his entire career in the Senate, basically, Joe Biden served in this body as long as I've been alive, plus or minus a few years. Joe Biden was a stalwart defender of the filibuster. He said that weakening the filibuster would, "eviscerate the Senate." But earlier this week, the President was pushed around by a bunch of rage-addicted 20-somethings on his staff and agreed to go down to Georgia and just read whatever nonsense they loaded into his teleprompter. It was shameful. It was sad. The President of the United States called half of the country a bunch of racist bigots. Think about that. Half the country, a bunch of racist bigots. He doesn't believe that. This was a senile comment of a man who read whatever was loaded into his teleprompter. His speechwriters puppet-mastered him into saying that anyone who disagrees with him is George Wallace. Bull Connor. Jefferson Davis. You disagree with Joe Biden and you're Jefferson Davis. Pretty breathtaking.
Equating millions of Americans to some of the ugliest racists in all of American history. That isn't just overheated rhetoric, it's a disgusting smear. Does President Biden really believe this in his heart of hearts? Based on the conversations I've had with him over the years, I don't think he believes this at all. So let's go back to last year. Candidate Joe Biden ran for office promising that he would unify the country. That's why the man was elected because he said that the crap we went through the last four years was wrong. He said he was going to try to unify the country. But now he's decided to surrender to a tiny, little far-left group in the mistaken belief that the loudest voices on Twitter actually represent America. It would be useful for us to pause and recognize the overwhelming majority of all political tweets in America come from less than one and a half percent of Americans. Let's just say that again because there are a bunch of morons around this building who decided to take their Twitter feed as reality. It is not reality.
What the President said in Georgia was nonsense and Joe Biden of decades in the U.S. Senate knows that. The president will be coming to Capitol Hill in the next hour. If President Biden really believes that Jim Crow is the same thing as a lot of states who have decided to reconsider some of their Covid expansion policies around voting, Jim Crow and redeliberating about Covid expansions are the same thing, he needs to make that argument in person. If Joe Manchin is really as big a racist as Joe Biden apparently thinks, if Kyrsten Sinema is really a racist, if that’s what animates Kyrsten Sinema in the eyes of Joe Biden, he should have the courage to say that to their faces. He's not going to say that to their faces because he doesn't believe it.
Ron Klain has an army of Twitter trolls that he has decided are reality and he has decided to have President Biden become something completely different than the person who ran for office last year or who served for decades in the United States Senate.
In fact, if Joe Biden really believes that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are bigots, why hasn't he called for them to be kicked out of his party. If they're as racist as Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis, why does Joe Biden want them in his party? The stuff he said in Georgia is nonsense and you wouldn't say it to regular Americans in New Jersey or West Virginia or Arizona or Nebraska because it's not true. In fact, if Joe Biden really believes that Lisa Murkowski is George Wallace, if Tim Scott is Bull Connor, if Susan Collins and I are Jefferson Davis, I hope he’d have the guts to come and say it to our faces. But he's not, because this is performative politics, it was nonsense and everybody knows that it goes away after this weekend but Chuck Schumer might have a primary from AOC.
So, it's really useful to shift the blame from his disastrous leadership of the Senate over the last 13 months from himself to Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. That's really what's happening right now.
President Biden ought to have the courage to stand up to his own staff and he ought to be enough of a man to apologize to the Senate and to the American people for the nonsense he said in Georgia. The vast majority of what he said violating the Ninth Commandment disparaging people was not would he really believes and he wouldn't say it to me face-to-face.
This fiasco is ugly and it was entirely unnecessary. It makes no sense to federalize our elections right now. By the way, you can differ with me about that. You can believe that federalizing all elections is a good idea. It is in our constitutional system. But to demonize people as racist bigots because they're not in favor of federalizing elections, that’s a pretty bizarre leap. But let’s just review a little bit of history.
Last year we had a president who disgraced his office by trying to steal an election. What stopped that? Our decentralized state-based systems of elections are what stopped last year's attempt to steal an election. It makes absolutely no sense to try to go into nuclear partisanship now when we should actually be talking about how you prevent another January 6 by doing the hard and actual bipartisan work, not the grandstanding for Twitter, but the hard and bipartisan work of reforming the Electoral Count Act, which is 130 years old and obviously doesn't work that well. We should reform the Electoral Reform Act. This is about subversion of an election, not suppression. There are real problems in our electoral system, and we could be doing work to actually fix that and try to stop the institutional arsonists in Congress who want to build political brands on the wreckage of American institutions.
We could do real work. The President decided to do something completely different this week. But here's the silver lining. President Biden, Leader Schumer, and everybody in this body knows that the charade we've been going through the last three days is great for the one and a half percent of people addicted to rage on Twitter. I get it. One and a half percent of people get their jollies out of this. It's bad for America. It's just as undermining of public trust in elections as what Donald Trump did last year, but here's the thing. Everybody going through this charade knows that it dies this weekend. Why? Because members of the Democrats' own conference know that there is no exception to the way the Senate rules work. Every single Senator knows that the filibuster is not going to die this weekend. And every Senator knows that if it would, the nonsense rhetoric about one exception -- it's 'like lose your virginity just once' -- every Senator knows that's not really how it works.
Once the filibuster goes for x, it goes for y, and it goes for z. Today it's election centralization. Tomorrow it's gun politics. The next day it's climate debates. Every red-hot issue in American culture and American politics would be in the same exception because every issue would be just as urgent next week, next month, and next year. Fortunately, Senator Manchin knows this. Senator Sinema knows this. And by the way, a whole bunch more colleagues of mine in the Democratic Party also know this. They don't just have as much courage to say it in public as those two.
A whole bunch of my colleagues -- I tried to count this morning. It's between 15 and 18 of my colleagues in the Democratic Party have privately told me they regret following Harry Reid over the tribalist cliff in the summer of 2013 for just the one exception of judicial confirmations to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. I think 15 to 18 Democrats have privately told me they regret this. Why? Because that one-time exception is now how the entire executive calendar works. And everybody knew when Harry Reid set this place on fire in 2013 that that's what it was going to produce. And the same exact thing would have on the legislative calendar with the supposed one time carve-out from the legislative filibuster. Let's remember what this institution is for. What the Senate is supposed to be about is we're supposed to be the one part of Congress and the one part of the American government that thinks beyond a 24-month window. It is the job of the people who serve in this body, only a hundred people right now and only I think it's 2,100 people across 230-some years of U.S. history. Only 2,000 people have had the honor of serving our states in this body. It's supposed to be our job to take the long-term view. Not just 24 hours of Twitter but we're supposed to think beyond the 24 months of the next election. That's what our job is supposed to be. There are a lot of people around this place who apparently can't think beyond 24 hours right now. That's their right. But they shouldn't be Senators. Because the purpose of this place is supposed to be to take a long-term view.
Some of my colleagues are convinced that Americans are polarized because Congress doesn't act more or faster, and they think that the solution is supposedly to eliminate the filibuster. They're kidding themselves. That would not extinguish the fires of red-hot tribalism in this country. It would throw gasoline on them. Addressing the real tribal disease in America requires a Senate that becomes less tribal, not more tribal. Senator Sinema's speech should be commended to every member of this body to go back and read. She said there are two fundamental questions before us today. One is where does the dissent into tribalism in this institution ultimately land? And what can each of us do to stop that? Those are the two big questions that she said should be before us today. Getting rid of the filibuster means this.
It means that you turn one razor-thin majority imposing its will on the American people and on legislation into a pendulum swinging another razor-thin majority, 24 months later, that sweeps all of that aside and jerks the American people around to the opposite legislation of what was just passed. 50-50, 51-50 in today's Senate. And all of it flips 11 months from now and the legislation all gets undone and new legislation gets put in place. Do you really think regular folks in New Jersey and Nebraska want that? Hardly any of them want that. Imagine what the current situation would look like if you have that federally imposed whiplash on our most sensitive issues inside of every 24 months. We think tribalism is bad now? I guarantee you can make it worse and eliminating the filibuster accelerates that dissent into tribalism.
There's a place of course where simple majorities rule. It's right down that hallway. We have a House of Representatives already. Does anybody want to make the argument that that place is healthier than we are because it is a simple majoritarian body? No. It is plain to see in an age of hyper-partisanship and social media grandstanding that the House is being more and more ruled by demagogues and dolts. That's not what the Senate is called to do. The Senate is supposed to be a different place. The Senate is supposed to be the place where passions are tempered and refined by people who are responsible for thinking beyond our next election, which is why every election cycle in America only has one-third of senators even up for reelection. That's the whole reason we have six-year terms. If I had my will, I could be king for a day and write some constitutional amendments and pass them, I would have a single 12-year Senate term and everybody would be out of here. A little bit longer than six years, but one term, no reelection, and get back to life, go back to serving in your community.
If you get rid of the filibuster, you will turn the Senate into the House and you will ensure that this body, too, ends up consumed by demagogues, conspiracists, and clowns. That's what will happen in this body. The American people don't have time for that crap. Nobody wants that. Americans don't want one-party rule, by the Democrats or by the Republicans. Both of these parties are really crappy. The American people are not fans of these political parties. Getting rid of the filibuster means you don't have to try to talk to people on the other side of the aisle and get to a 60-vote threshold for legislation or a 67-vote threshold for rules changes. It means that one of these two terrible parties gets to do a lot more stuff a lot faster that will inevitably be incredibly unpopular with the American people. American people do not want revolution. They do not want fundamental change. What they want is competence. What they want is more honesty. What they want is less performative grandstanding. Institutions like the Senate provide frameworks and processes for competent, responsible self-government, for more honesty. We're not living up to it right now, but we could live down to something worse, and ending the filibuster would accelerate that. It would accelerate tribalism, it would accelerate people following Senators into bathrooms screaming at them, trying to bully them. It will not lead to more productive compromise legislation that tries to bring along a larger share of the American public. The rules and the norms of this place have been built up over a very long time, and they exist to discourage demagoguery. Putting cameras in every room we're in around here tries to undermine so much of what the Senate is about. I'm for lots of transparency. I'm for pen-and-pad reporters everywhere, but the cameras we have put in this place have encouraged so much demagoguery. That's so much of the problem why we tribalism here and tribalism more broadly in the country and if you eliminate the filibuster, you accelerate all those most destructive short-term performative trends. You encourage more rank partisanship and you discourage consensus, compromise, and collaboration.
Friends, please do not, like the President did in Georgia this week, surrender to the angriest voices on social media and the mistaken belief that they reflect the majority of America. They don't. They reflect the majority of Twitter. Political Twitter is like the 9th most popular topic on Twitter. K-pop music is exponentially more popular on Twitter than politics. The share of Americans paying attention to political Twitter bounces around between one-tenth and one-sixth and something like 80 percent of all political tweets come from under 2 percent of the public. We should remind ourselves of that again and again and again because there are people who regularly mistake Twitter with reality and with the American public. We're called to serve the American public. We're not called to serve rage-addicted people on social media.
Now, perhaps more than ever, it is our job to stop giving ear to political arsonists who would burn down our institutions and intensify our divisions. Now is the time for us to think together over the long term how we renew those institutions. The filibuster is a part of what can lead us to broader consensus, and eliminating the filibuster will accelerate the political arson around this place and across our land. Senate, we can do better. Thank you, Mr. President.'