Chuck Schumer on the filibuster in 2017: If you can't get 60 votes, 'you shouldn't change the rules'

The top Democrat once called the filibuster 'the most important distinction between the Senate and the House'

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated that he would lead the effort to peel back the filibuster after previously being a staunch defender of the 60-vote Senate rule as minority leader. 

Last month, Schumer penned a letter to his Democratic colleagues forecasting a vote on the Senate floor on liberal legislation to federalize elections, but made it clear that the caucus would have to change the rules in order to push their agenda forward. 

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"I would ask you to consider this question: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?" Schumer wrote. 

"I believe our constituents deserve to know which Senators choose to hide behind ill-conceived and abused rules," Schumer added. "Therefore … Members will be given the chance to debate on the Senate floor and cast a vote so that their choice on this matter is clear and available for everyone to see."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praises his Democratic Caucus at a news conference just after the Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, March 6, 2021. Senate passage sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to President Joe Biden for his signature. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praises his Democratic Caucus at a news conference just after the Senate narrowly approved a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, March 6, 2021. Senate passage sets up final congressional approval by the House next week so lawmakers can send it to President Joe Biden for his signature. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

However, Schumer didn't feel this way about the filibuster during the confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

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"It looks like Gorsuch will not reach the 60-vote margin. So instead of changing the rules, which is up to Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority, why doesn't President Trump, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate sit down and try to come up with a mainstream nominee?" Schumer asked in April 2017 on "Meet the Press."

"Look, when a nominee doesn't get 60 votes, you shouldn't change the rules- you should change the nominee," Schumer told NBC's Chuck Todd. 

Days later, Schumer took to the Senate floor reiterating his staunch support for the filibuster. 

"Let us go no further down this road," Schumer said. "I hope the Republican Leader and I can, in the coming months, find a way to build a firewall around the legislative filibuster, which is the most important distinction between the Senate and the House."

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"Without the 60-vote threshold for legislation, the Senate becomes a majoritarian institution like the House, much more subject to the winds of short-term electoral change. No Senator would like to see that happen, so let's find a way to further protect the 60-vote rule for legislation," he added. 

Fox News' Tyler Olson contributed to this report.