Lindsey Graham says he'd 'leave town' to stop Democrats' reconciliation bill, citing Texas

Matthew Brown
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - Taking inspiration from Texas Democrats' bid to stop a new round of election laws in their cite, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he would leave the nation's capital to block Democrats from passing a key priority of President Joe Biden's agenda.

Graham said the move may be necessary to stop Senate Democrats from passing a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, which includes many long-standing Democratic priorities regarding social services, the environment and infrastructure.

Learn more:What is 'reconciliation,' and why is it holding up the infrastructure package?

Noting that the Senate requires a quorum — the minimum number of senators present to conduct business — Graham said he "would leave before I'd let that happen." 

At least 51 senators must be present on the floor for the upper chamber to conduct business, according to the U.S. Constitution. Quorum is normally assumed unless a roll call vote or other motion finds that not enough senators are present.

"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: leave town," he told Fox News' Maria Bartiromo.

The deal:Senate Democrats reach $3.5 trillion deal for Biden's 'human infrastructure' agenda, Medicare expansion

Graham's departure from Washington alone would not be enough to suspend business in the evenly divided Senate. All GOP lawmakers would have to join Graham in the bid to stop a vote on the bill over a lack of quorum.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a hearing to examine the nomination of Shalanda Young to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 2, 2021.

A similar move by Texas Democrats has proved more successful so far, based on the state legislature's own quorum rules.

Texas Democrats flee to prevent vote

In a bid to stop the state from passing a slate of new election laws, Democratic lawmakers in Texas fled the state July 12 to deny the GOP-controlled state legislature the ability to pass the bill. They contend the policies in the legislation will lead to voter suppression of Democratic constituencies, including people of color, urban voters and young people. 

The Texas legislature requires at 100 of the 150 representatives in the state House of Representatives and 21 of the 31 senators in the state Senate to be present to conduct business. While Democrats do not have enough votes to stop the bill from passing should it come to a vote, they do have large enough numbers to deny the legislature a quorum during the current emergency session.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said he will continue to call an emergency session of the state legislature until the Democrats return to the state and vote on the legislation. The stakes of the conflict have prompted the Texas Democrats to plead their national counterparts for federal action on voting rights.

Related:3 Texas Democrats test positive for coronavirus in Washington, DC

Harris lauds Texas Democrats

Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been tasked with leading the Biden administration's efforts to expand voting access, met with the lawmakers and praised their work as heroic.

Graham said that should he and other GOP senators adopt a similar tactic in blocking the Democrat's reconciliation package, he expects similar admiration.

"Hey, Vice President Harris, if you think these people are heroes, well then I expect you to show up and pat us on the back," Graham said.

Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.