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Inspired by Texas Dems, Lindsey Graham urges Republicans to ‘leave town’ to stop $3.5 trillion budget package

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) speaks during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on June 17. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AP)
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In a ploy to hamper Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham on Sunday proposed his fellow Republican senators follow the example of the Democratic Texas lawmakers who left their state to stop legislation that would have restricted voting rights.

“You got to have a quorum to pass a bill in the Senate. I would leave before I let that happen,” the South Carolina Republican said in an interview on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “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.”

Despite Graham’s conviction that he would be willing to skip town to stop the budget package — which he described as “a tax and spend dream of the socialist left” — the plan would probably not work. Senate rules only require 51 members to be present to meet quorum, so if just one Republican showed up at the U.S. Capitol, the strategy would fail.

The proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation package would attempt to bypass GOP opposition to several of President Biden’s top economic priorities, including putting money toward fighting climate change and expanding Medicare benefits. Using a process called reconciliation, Democrats hope to pass the budget without Republican support.

Out of options in Austin, Texas House Democrats flew to Washington, D.C. on July 12 to press Congress to pass federal voting legislation. (Video: Mahlia Posey/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Senate Democrats announce plans for $3.5 trillion budget package to expand Medicare, advance Biden priorities

Graham said he would “use everything lawfully in my toolbox,” including purposefully leaving Washington to avoid a vote on the proposal.

His proclamation follows a grand quorum-bolting gambit executed by more than 50 Democrats in the Texas Capitol, who left Austin in secret last week after Republicans in the state attempted to fast-track a set of election-related measures — including two that would ban 24-hour voting and drive-through options that allowed people to vote more safely during the pandemic.

The Texas lawmakers absconded to Washington to garner national attention. A week later, they are still making headlines and are planning to hold protests against the legislation during a week-long virtual conference hosted in D.C. They have vowed to remain out of the state until the legislative session ends on Aug. 6, the Texas Tribune reported.

Texas Democrats don’t plan to go home yet

As soon as the Texas Democrats denied their GOP foes a quorum to vote on the proposed bills, conservatives in and out of the state rebuked the coalition for abandoning its work in Austin.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that the Democrats’ strategy “inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve.” Texas House Republicans, left unable to vote on legislation without a quorum, voted last week to send police after the errant Democrats to arrest them and force them to return to the capitol. (The legislators are beyond the jurisdiction of Texas law enforcement officials while they remain across state lines.) And on Fox News, Tucker Carlson compared the walkout to a rebellion.

“By leaving the state, they violated their sworn duty to represent voters and committed what amounted to an act of, yes, insurrection,” Carlson said last week.

Although the Texas Democrats have managed to stop a vote on the election proposals thus far, their efforts have been marred by the revelation that at least five of the lawmakers tested positive for the coronavirus this past weekend, despite being vaccinated.

“All of us are fully vaccinated and following [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] protocols,” Texas state Rep. Art Fierro, of El Paso, said Sunday on Twitter. “We knew the personal and professional risks we were taking when we decided to break quorum. We are still committed to stopping the Texas Republicans’ assault on voting rights.”