Lindsey Graham wants to emulate Texas Democrats, suggests Republicans leave D.C. to block Biden

Republicans are looking for any way to block Democrats from passing a key priority of President Joe Biden's agenda

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published July 19, 2021 11:06AM (EDT)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the Defense Department's budget request on Capitol Hill on June 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the Defense Department's budget request on Capitol Hill on June 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Sunday that he'd happily "leave town" in a bid to prevent Senate Democrats from approving President Biden's $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill. 

"I would leave before I would let that happen," the senator said in a Fox News interview with host Maria Bartiromo. 

"So, to my Republican colleagues, we may learn something from our Democratic friends in Texas when it comes to avoiding a $3.5 trillion tax-and-spend package," he added, citing the Texas Democrats who left the state last week to deny Republicans attempting to pass a bill restricting voting access a quorum.

"Leave town."

Last week, a bipartisan coalition of senators struck an unofficial deal on a $1 trillion infrastructure and spending plan mostly aimed at rebuilding roads and bridges. 

However, Democrats are also hoping to advance a number of other provisions through Congress by passing a standalone bill via budget reconciliation – a plan which would allow Senate Democrats to effectively circumvent a filibuster and pass the bill with a simple majority. These provisions would cover policy areas such as childcare, education, and clean energy. 

Last week, Senate Democrats decided on a $3.5 trillion price tag for the reconciliation package, immediately sparking Republican ire. 

"As for the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, designed to pass without a single Republican vote, [Sen.] Joe Manchin [of West Virginia] says that has to be paid for," Graham said on Fox News. "The only way you can do that is through a massive tax increase. The reconciliation package is not infrastructure. It's big government. All kinds of new social programs unrelated to infrastructure. We'll see if they can get Democratic support."

He added: "I will use everything lawfully in my toolbox to prevent rampant inflation. If it takes me not showing up to stop that, I will do it because if we pass that bill, you're going to have inflation through the roof."

If all Senate Republicans were to flee Congress in advance of the bill's floor vote, they would consequently deny their Democratic colleagues the necessary quorum to advance the infrastructure package, stopping the budget reconciliation effort in its tracks. 

However, as The Washington Post noted, Graham's plan is likely to fail because Senate rules require only 51 members to be present for a quorum, meaning that the presence of just one Republican would throw a wrench in GOP-backed mass exodus from the Capitol.

Graham's comments stem directly from a successful exodus last week in Texas, where at least 56 Texas Democrats fled the state capitol, jetting D.C. in a bid to impede the legislature from passing a sweeping GOP-backed restrictive voting bill. The move, which saw widespread plaudits from Democrats and voting rights advocates, prompted a torrent of rage from Republican politicians and pundits who felt that the Democrats wrongly absconded. 

"By leaving the state," Fox host Tucker Carlson stated on his show last week, "they violated their sworn duty to represent voters and committed what amounted to an act of, yes, insurrection."

Gov. Greg Abbott shortly threatened to have the Texas caucus arrested upon their arrival back into Lone Star State. In fact, Texas Republicans have already signed a bill allowing them to dispatch law enforcement against their colleagues. 

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Clip Gop Infrastructure Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Reconciliation Republicans Senate Spending Bill Texas Democrats