Senate Judiciary Committee member Senator Lindsey Graham (R, S.C.) listens to testimony from Christine Blasey Ford in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (Win McNamee/Reuters)
Sen. Lindsey Graham is an idiot. Don’t take it from me. Take it from Graham himself.
Last week, after announcing a bipartisan deal with Republicans, President Biden said he would only sign it if it were passed in “tandem” with a multi-trillion dollar Democrats-only reconciliation bill containing the rest of his liberal wish list.
Graham declared that he was not going to be so easily duped. “If he’s gonna tie them together, he can forget it!” Graham told Politico. “I’m not doing that. That’s extortion! I’m not going to do that. The Dems are being told you can’t get your bipartisan work product passed unless you sign on to what the left wants, and I’m not playing that game.”
He added, “There’s no way. You look like a f—ing idiot now.”
Yet a week later, Graham is back on board with the bipartisan deal citing a statement Biden made to reassure Republicans. “Once Biden clarified that there was no veto threat, Graham returned to the table,” Politico reported Friday morning, saying Biden’s statement, “had the intended effect.”
But let’s look back at Biden’s supposedly clarifying statement — and also at the broader context.
What Biden said was, “My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent.” However, whatever his intent was, his statement should not be viewed as reassuring by Republicans. The comment that drew controversy was him saying that if the bipartisan bill is “the only one that comes to me, I’m not signing it.” Nothing in his subsequent statement indicates that he would be signing the bipartisan bill if it came to his desk alone. But the story does not end there.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki followed up his statement by reiterating, “the President intends to sign both pieces of legislation into law. He is eager to do that, looking forward to do that. As you know, they are both moving forward on dual tracks in Congress. The leaders in Congress are ensuring that is happening.”
In fact, just this Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated that the House would not even consider the bipartisan bill until the Senate passes the reconciliation bill. So it’s pretty clear that both Congressional Democrats and White House view the two bills as linked. The only ones who don’t seem to understand that are Graham and the rest of the Republicans participating in this charade.
Defenders of this Republican gambit argue that it is a way of keeping Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema from blowing up the filibuster, and perhaps giving them cover to kill the reconciliation bill. But neither of these arguments hold water.
Manchin and Sinema had already dug themselves deeply into the position of blowing up the filibuster before the bipartisan infrastructure deal. And they did so because of their own political considerations. Were the the filibuster eliminated, Democrats would move full speed ahead with the liberal agenda, and Manchin and Sinema would face tougher votes, pulling them between the demands of their party and their constituents. As long as the filibuster is in place, they are spared from the votes, and can use the procedural roadblock to avoid taking positions on the substance of various issues.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that the bipartisan framework has made Manchin more likely to block the reconciliation package. If anything, it does the opposite. Rather than giving Manchin cover to oppose the reconciliation package, the bipartisan deal seems to have given Manchin cover to support it because it makes the entire process appear to be more bipartisan. Since the bipartisan deal was announced, Manchin has said he supports a Democrats-only package.
The bottom line is that Democrats are treating the two bills as linked, and so should Republicans and everybody else. Put another way, a vote for the bipartisan deal should be treated as a vote for the reconciliation bill. And so any Republican who signs on to this pile of hot garbage should be laughed at for getting duped by Biden. As Graham himself put it, “You look like a f—ing idiot now.”
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