There have been growing calls among Democrats to eliminate the filibuster, which effectively requires 60 votes to advance most legislation and currently means Republicans can block major action in the split Senate. McConnell called those efforts “a power grab.”
Several lawmakers and historians have pointed out that the filibuster was historically used to block civil rights legislation, with former President Barack Obama last year calling it a “Jim Crow relic” that should be eliminated.
McConnell seemed to differ, but later in the day, his spokesperson Doug Andres claimed the Senate minority leader was referring only to the origins of the filibuster. Andres pointed to McConnell’s earlier comments on the Senate floor, which did indeed focus on the origins of the practice.
Caroline Brehman via Getty Images Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) received a history lesson on social media after he incorrectly claimed that the filibuster had “no racial history at all, none.”
The Washington Post, which McConnell cited during his floor remarks, named three possible origins for the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, none of which were linked to slavery or racism. Yet when speaking to the media later, McConnell made a much more sweeping claim.
“It has no racial history at all, none, so there’s no dispute among historians about that,” McConnell said.
That’s incorrect, as the same Post article McConnell cited earlier pointed out. It noted that an early adopter of the filibuster used it to block action against slavery and that the procedure was used in the Senate for nearly a century to halt civil rights legislation.
McConnell also quoted a PolitiFact article that stated: “Historians told PolitiFact that the filibuster did not emerge from debates over slavery or segregation.” He did not quote the next sentence: “However, they agreed that the parliamentary tactic was closely affiliated with opposition to civil rights for more than a century.
Given his claim that the filibuster had “no racial history at all,” McConnell was given a history lesson on Twitter:
— Jaime Harrison, DNC Chair (@harrisonjaime) March 23, 2021
Ask a historian before you say that.Because: hey look!It's a filibuster trying to bring down the Civil Rights Act.Here's the SENATE'S WEBSITE describing it.https://t.co/SWzmTJJV8H https://t.co/DPRPqmNkAt
— Dr. Joanne Freeman (@jbf1755) March 23, 2021
— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) March 23, 2021
That’s a “LIE”. Strom Thurmond once filibustered 24 str8 hours to defeat civil rights legislation in the late 50s. That was the Senate’s most impactful tool during Jim Crow to deny blks civil rights, voting rights and fair housing https://t.co/A9XGHohnWN
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) March 24, 2021
Historian of the 20th century South here. I dispute Mitch's statement. The filibuster has a ton of "racial history." https://t.co/XpPwAaP3rT
— Chuck Westmoreland (@chwestmo7) March 23, 2021
This is a patently false statement. I'll let historian Twitter chime in, but to get the ball rolling, here is Richard Russell – the leading practitioner of the filibuster in the Jim Crow era – testifying at a Senate hearing that the filibuster was all about civil rights. https://t.co/oDrOqmh9MA pic.twitter.com/LQvl3V3ceT
— Adam Jentleson 🎈 (@AJentleson) March 23, 2021
And yet very many historians would in fact dispute that. https://t.co/sNrpprJyLr
— Joshua D. Rothman (@rothmanistan) March 23, 2021
i think the “jim crow filibuster” line is working if mcconnell’s defense is this laughably weak shit https://t.co/KGIgCJT0cs
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) March 23, 2021
The filibuster is a relic of Jim Crow and was used to block civil rights progress. Read @AJentleson's book KILL SWITCH and also catch up on history. Currently, McConnell has used it to obstruct the majority's agenda which reflect the will of most Americans. #EndTheFilibusterNow https://t.co/Jw9gWzHvDU
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) March 23, 2021
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) March 23, 2021
Mitch McConnell wants to preserve the filibuster so he can prevent Black people from voting. It's racist history is *right now*. (in addition to you know the rest of its racist history.) https://t.co/XZaUZ1To7Q
— Noah Berlatsky (@nberlat) March 23, 2021
Once again: when the Grim Reaper is this nervous you know you’re on the right track. https://t.co/3uEAaXZoit