In a surprising move for one of the more mainstream House Republicans, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin took the lead this week in an assault on Senate filibuster rules during a private GOP conclave in Philadelphia.

He cited growing impatience “to get things done” among House members and the electorate as a reason for dumping the longstanding provision.

Behind closed doors, Republican House members questioned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on anti-abortion legislation approved by the House last week and another issues.

McConnell said the abortion measure would never get through the Senate because Democrats, who hold 48 of 100 seats, have enough votes to kill it thanks to a filibuster rule that requires 60 votes in favor to stop discussion and force a decision on nearly every bill.

Concerned that fear of filibusters would sidetrack a variety of legislation, Poliquin, the second-term Maine Republican whose district includes Lewiston, asked the obvious question to McConnell: Why not just change the rules?

Politico’s account said that McConnell dodged the question and suggested that axing the filibuster isn’t in the cards.


Poliquin, though, was still in a combative mode after the private session.

He told Politico that he brought up the filibuster because it is merely “an internal rule” that senators are free to change.

“We have a very impatient Republican House and a very impatient electorate,” he told the politics-focused news site. “We want to get things done.”

Poliquin expanded on his stance Friday.

He pointed out that in the fall of 2015, the House voted 269-162 — a majority that included a number of Democrats — “to stop the reckless Iran nuclear deal.”

But the Senate “never even voted to approve or disapprove this crucial measure for national security,” Poliquin said.


Other measures that “never even reached the Senate floor” in the last congressional session despite House approval, he said, include measures “to secure our borders, stop illegal entry, and defund sanctuary cities to protect our families and communities.”

“It goes on and on, and has for years,” the congressman said.

“We all know that a 50 percent-plus-one majority vote passes almost everything at our local Maine town meetings and at our kids’ student councils,” he said. “The U.S. House uses this same common-sense process. It’s time the Senate does the same.”

Neither of Maine’s senators, Republican Susan Collins and Independent Angus King, responded Friday to a request for their thoughts on Poliquin’s suggestion.

The filibuster rule may come into sharp focus in the weeks ahead if Democrats are unhappy with the U.S. Supreme Court choice that President Donald Trump plans to announce next week.

Trump told Fox News this week that GOP senators should drop the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, as well, if Democrats balk at a vote.


“I would. We have obstructionists,” Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News in an interview Thursday.

Democrats opted a few years ago to cease the filibuster option for presidential nominees for executive branch positions or all federal judges, except those tapped for the Supreme Court. That means Republicans have to win over at least eight Democrats to avoid a filibuster that could block Trump’s nominee — unless they revise the rules themselves.

But senators aren’t keen to curb the power the filibuster gives to the minority faction in the Senate, in part because the parties have seen control swap between them often over the years and in part because filibusters effectively limit the power of legislative leaders somewhat.

Though the filibuster rule technically only means that a vote can be put off as long as opponents keep talking, the reality in the time-constrained Senate is that measures almost never come up for debate unless there are 60 votes available, making it possible for the minority party to obstruct many bills quietly.

Though the filibuster favors Democrats today, Republicans relied on the rule frequently when they were in the minority from 2007 to 2014.

Filibusters have been used for most of the Senate’s history to stymie the will of the majority by preventing an up-or-down vote on a bill, something most often used to prevent progress on civil rights.


Not until 1917 was there any provision at all to end debate and force a vote. That year, senators adopted Rule 22 that permitted two-thirds of the Senate to close debate and move on to a vote. In 1975, senators lowered the threshold to 60 votes.

Poliquin and his House colleagues have no direct say in what the Senate chooses for its rules.

Another congressman who raised an objection to filibusters during the private Republican session this week, Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, has been pressing the issue for years.

“We must change the Senate filibuster or raise the level of the Dems modern abuse,” he tweeted in 2015, one of many examples of his campaign against the practice.

Poliquin, though, doesn’t appear to have raised the issue in public before.

Poliquin noted that in 1889, former House Speaker Thomas Brackett Read of Maine fought similar “obstructionist rules” in the House with the declaration “if tyranny of the majority is hard, tyranny of the minority is unendurable.”

“All forms of government should compassionately help our families fix problems, not avoid making tough decisions,” Poliquin said.

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