“According to the former Senate Historian, with one possible exception… the number of Supreme Court justices in our country’s history who have been denied their seats by filibuster is zero.  The number of cabinet members in our country’s history who have been denied their seats by a filibuster is zero.  The number of federal district judges in our country’s history who have been denied their seats by a filibuster is zero.  And until 2003, the number of circuit judges in our country’s history who had been denied their seats by filibuster was zero.”

United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) yesterday said that “filibustering to death the Gorsuch nomination—or any presidential nomination, for that matter—would fly in the face of 230 years of Senate tradition.”

In a speech to his colleagues delivered on the Senate floor this afternoon, Senator Alexander said: “Throughout the Senate’s history, approval of even the most controversial presidential nominations have required only a majority vote.”

Senator Alexander continued: “Senator Everett Dirksen did not filibuster President Johnson’s nominees. Sen. Robert Byrd did not filibuster President Reagan’s nominees.  Sen. Howard Baker did not filibuster President Carter’s nominees.  Sen. Bob Dole did not filibuster President Clinton’s nominees.  During most of the 20th century, when one party controlled the White House and the Senate seventy percent of the time, the minority never filibustered to death a single presidential nominee.”

Senator Alexander concluded: “The filibuster of legislation is perhaps the Senate’s most famous characteristic.  It has been called ‘democracy’s finest show, the right to talk your head off.’ As the actor Jimmy Stewart says in the movie ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ ‘Wild Horses aren’t going to drag me off this floor until those people have heard everything I’ve got to say, even if it takes all winter.’

“The late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia described the importance of the legislative filibuster in a different in this way. ‘Our Founding Fathers,’ Sen. Byrd said in his last speech, ‘intended the Senate to be a continuing body that allows for open and unlimited debate and the protection of minority rights.  Senators have understood this since the Senate first convened.’

“In fact, the whole idea of the Senate is not to have majority rule on legislation.  Throughout Senate history, the purpose of the legislative filibuster has been to force consensus on issues, to force there to be a group of senators on either side who have to respect one another’s views so they work together and produce 60 votes on important matters.”