Members of the Texas Democratic caucus in the state House stunned the nation earlier this month when they fled the state in order to deny Republicans a quorum to pass their election integrity bill.
The Texas Democrats have become a punching bag on the right for their stunt, especially after several of them — all vaccinated — tested positive for COVID-19 following a maskless private flight to Washington. Some will argue that the stunt has backfired for Texas Democrats, but it has certainly succeeded in delaying the passage of Republican priorities, and Republicans in Washington are taking notice. The lesson of this should not be lost on the GOP as the Democrats gear up to pass a sweeping amnesty bill before they potentially lose control of Congress after the midterm elections.
Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested recently that Senate Republicans could take a page from Texas Democrats and flee Washington in order to deny Democrats the quorum necessary to pass their 3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
“Hell yeah, I would leave,” Graham said. “I would use everything lawfully in my toolbox to prevent rampant inflation.”
While Graham’s comments emphasized inflationary concerns, another aspect of Democrats’ proposal could also garner strong resistance. Democrats have signaled that they will attempt to pass a mass amnesty for illegal immigrants in their “human infrastructure” bill, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the most moderate member of the Senate Democratic caucus, appears to be on board. Joe Biden has indicated that he will push hard to include amnesty in the reconciliation bill after a district judge in Texas struck down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as unconstitutional.
If the Senate parliamentarian allows Democrats to include immigration reform in their infrastructure bill, then the White House will almost certainly have enough votes to legalize millions of illegal immigrants. This possibility should set off a four-alarm fire among Republicans, and all options must be on the table to stop it from happening.
The U.S. Constitution requires that 51 senators be present in order for a quorum to be called, which allows the Senate to conduct business. Since Democrats only have 50 senators, (the vice president does not count for the purpose of a quorum call) Republicans could shut down the Senate simply by refusing to show up.
Graham is not the first senator to float the idea of denying Democrats a quorum in order to halt their far-left agenda. In fact, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to deny Democrats a quorum if they move to abolish the legislative filibuster, warning that the gridlock of the Obama and Trump eras would be “child’s play” compared to the fallout that would occur if Democrats moved to strip minority senators of their rights. However, if Democrats are allowed to force a mass amnesty down the throats of the American people with just 50 votes, the filibuster will have been effectively defanged.
It would almost certainly take something calamitous for a Senate institutionalist like McConnell and other establishment Republicans to engage in such scorched-earth tactics. Some on the right will likely argue that fleeing the Capitol would make Republicans appear cowardly, an argument conservatives have used against Texas Democrats. Others may argue that taking this step would be politically damaging, and could hurt the party in 2022. However, any blowback to these tactics would likely pale in comparison to the electoral cost of legalizing millions of illegal aliens, most of whom would likely become reliable Democrat voters.
There remains a good chance that the Senate parliamentarian will rule the immigration provisions in the reconciliation bill out of order, like she did when Democrats tried to sneak a minimum wage hike in their COVID relief bill. This would be the best-case scenario, and would allow Republicans to use the filibuster to stop future amnesty proposals. But, if Democrats are allowed to include amnesty in their reconciliation bill, then all options must be on the table to stop it. The stakes are simply too high.
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.