Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said that his favorite nickname is “Darth Vader” and warned against ending the Senate filibuster, saying it could trigger a “nuclear winter” for President Biden’s legislative agenda.
“I revere all of my nicknames but Darth Vader was my favorite,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the “Ruthless” podcast. “That was from the campaign finance wars of a couple of decades ago and it looks like we’re about to have them again.”
McConnell was presented by podcast hosts with options including “Cocaine Mitch” and “Grim Reaper Mitch.”
McConnell is the most powerful Republican in Washington after President Trump left office Jan. 20 because of the Senate’s 60-vote requirement for most bills. On the podcast, he repeated his threat to do everything possible to slow down legislation if Democrats scrap the filibuster.
“If they destroy the essence of the Senate, the legislative filibuster, they will find a Senate that will not function. It takes unanimous consent to turn the lights on here and I think they would leave an angry 50 senators not interested and being uncooperative on even the simplest things,” McConnell said.
“So my point being, it may not be the panacea that they anticipate it would be. It could turn the Senate into sort of a nuclear winter where the aftermath of the so-called nuclear option is not a sustainable place.”
Democratic advocacy groups are putting pressure on centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to fall in line to kill the filibuster. They said in January that they wanted to retain the supermajority threshold.
“Looks like we’re down to two brave Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, preserving the institution,” McConnell said in the interview.
During the podcast, McConnell also assailed long-shot Democratic efforts to pass H.R. 1, a House-passed bill that would adopt new federal election rules, which Republicans decry for reducing state decision-making, and to make Washington, DC, a state without a constitutional amendment.
“They want to change the system to benefit themselves and they want to have instead of a referee they want the FEC to be a prosecutor,” McConnell said of H.R. 1. “So this is not about anything other than trying to help the Democrats win elections in perpetuity.”
H.R. 1 provisions include mandatory same-day voter registration and no-excuse mail-in voting. It would allow voters to sign a sworn statement in lieu of presenting a photo ID.
McConnell criticized Democrats for wanting to add DC as a state through legislation and the less-imminent push for Puerto Rico statehood.
“They want to change the makeup of the Senate by admitting two new states, DC and Puerto Rico, to give them in all virtual certainty four new Democratic senators forever,” McConnell said.
“So you change the makeup of the Senate, you break the rules of the Senate, just to be able to get what you want, all the time.”
Although the Senate minority leader said he prefers “Darth Vader,” his 2020 re-election campaign sold “Cocaine Mitch” merchandise, turning a political foe’s insult into a fundraising opportunity. Failed West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship coined that nickname after the drug was found on a ship owned by McConnell’s father-in-law.
Biden’s failed White House budget director nominee Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination after Senate Republicans and some Democrats objected to her litany of social media insults, which included calling the top Republican “Moscow Mitch” and “Voldemort.”