Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) speaks during a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2021. (Alex Edelman/Reuters)
Republicans should be united in condemning the Texas Democrats’ anti-democratic stunt, in which they’ve blown out of Austin (all the way to Washington’s blue oasis) to prevent the state legislature from having the necessary quorum to do business. They have, thereby, derailed enactment of election-process legislation that the woke Left, even with all its demagoguing, lacks the votes to block. This boycott tactic is contemptuous of the process of representative governance. If it were normalized as a legislative maneuver, it would collapse the system.
But arguments from principle have less sway than they used to in today’s stupid, “fight fire with fire” politics, in which Republicans are depicted as cowardly RINOs if they shy from aping the Democrats’ Alinsky-ite strategy of weaponizing process and defining deviancy down.
So there was Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday, urging in a Fox News interview that the GOP take a page out the radical book: If Democrats try to slam through, via simple-majority “reconciliation” procedure, their ruinous, who-really-knows-how-many-trillion-dollar-“infrastructure”-that’s-not-infrastructure bill, Republicans should stage a walkout to deny Democrats the quorum they need to proceed.
It’s a moronic idea. Since Senator Graham is not a moron, we have to assume that he was being cheeky. In particular, he was throwing some shade on Vice President Kamala Harris. She, of course, is among the most prominent Biden administration officials to wave pom-poms for the Texas Dems. But it is Harris who will need Republicans to show up and assure a Senate quorum if she is to play the progressive hero by casting the deciding vote for “infrastructure” in the 50–50 Senate.
So, Graham was being funny, as he is prone to do. But you don’t want to look uninformed.
Texas lawmakers are able to pull off their stunt, at least temporarily, because of quirks in the state constitution. Texas promotes consensus and limited government by having only a part-time legislature (it meets for a relatively short session every other year). Saliently for present purposes, Texas’s constitution also requires the presence in each legislative chamber of a two-thirds’ supermajority for a quorum before business can be done.
The federal Constitution, in marked contrast, mandates just a majority for a quorum in each chamber – meaning just 51 members in the Senate. (See art. I, sec. 5.)
To be sure, Harris could not supply the 51st vote for quorum purposes because the vice president, though the presiding officer of the Senate, is not a member of that body. But there is absolutely zero chance that all 50 Republicans would boycott to deprive the Senate of a quorum.
By the way, Democrats did in recent memory attempt to thwart Senate action by staging a walk-out – specifically, about eight months ago, when the Judiciary Committee was voting to approve (now) Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
While the full Senate needs just 51 members to do business, the longstanding practice was that committee business could not proceed unless at least two members of minority were present. Yet, when committee Democrats boycotted, the chairman had no patience for such nonsense. He ruled that if a majority was prepared to conduct the vote, as all Republican Senators were, then the minority would not be permitted to shut the system down. Barrett was thus approved by the committee on a 12–0 vote, despite the Democrats’ ruse.
The chairman was Lindsey Graham.
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