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Lindsey Graham: Biggest Frag in the Senate

4 min read

Lindsey Graham has done it again: he’s fragged his own side, with his recent allegation to the New York Times that Republican resistance to Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was nothing more than pure obstructionism:

Many Republicans admitted their efforts to hobble executive agencies by denying confirmation of their leadership was wrongheaded. “Cordray was being filibustered because we don’t like the law” that created the consumer agency, said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “That’s not a reason to deny someone their appointment. We were wrong.”

Graham’s statements come on the heels of months of GOP resistance to President Obama’s recess appointment of Craig Becker to the NLRB, which two appeals courts rejected as unconstitutional, thereby throwing the legality of the of the NLRB’s actions during Becker’s tenure into doubt.  A President gaming the system to make unconstitutional appointments during intrasession breaks of the Senate is no longer the narrative, thanks to Graham’s statements.  Instead, the GOP’s unreasonable intransigence is the narrative, because one of their senior Senators copped to said intransigence.

What’s more, Graham’s statements will be used in the future if the GOP attempts to filibuster or obstruct President Obama’s nominees, no matter how extremist those nominees may be. Since the GOP caved on the issue of intrasession recess appointments by the President, the Supreme Court is unlikely to take up appeals from the D.C. Circuit and the  Third Circuit as well, since the issue has effectively become moot with the compromise reached by Senate Republicans and Democrats.

What that means going forward is that the President preserves his ability to pull the same stunt, since the circuits are split as to the legality of intrasession recess appointments, and the Supreme Court has yet rule.  In the end, twelve Republicans voted for Cordray’s confirmation:

Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), John McCain (Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

After months of insisting that the CFPB needed restructuring to prevent abuses, Senate Republicans completely abandoned their argument, thereby undermining any contention that their stand was principled.  Instead of forcing the Democrats into the position of extremism, by forcing them to resort to the nuclear option, Republicans caved and gave the Democrats what they would have gotten anyway with the nuclear option: a straight up or down vote.

And in the aftermath of the vote for cloture, Lindsey Graham yet again aided and abetted the Democratic Party by characterizing his party’s stand as disingenuous.  In doing so, he undermined any future effort against President Obama’s nominees, effectively neutering the GOP and obliterating its credibility going forward. He fragged his own side.

The filibuster, whether you like it or not, is a tool used to force compromise. It can be used, and has been used, for varying purposes throughout the Senate’s history. Blocking a president’s nominees is consistent with the rules of the Senate, and the idea that the President of the Senate, or the Senate Majority Leader, has the ability to invoke a nuclear option is intellectually vacuous.

The Senate has the constitutional power to choose its own officers and  to set its own rules, but nowhere in those rules is anything resembling a nuclear option or the power of the Senate Majority Leader or President of the Senate to declare a nuclear option, or to declare filibusters or holds unconstitutional.  Past Senate precedent does not bolster Senator Harry Reid’s position; indeed, Reid himself called the nuclear option “beyond the pale” while he was the Minority Leader, and cited the Senate parliamentarian, who said that he would object to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-TN) attempt to invoke the nuclear option.

Additionally, the Congressional Research Service issued a report that characterized the nuclear option as inconsistent with past precedent:

“Employment of either of these versions of the ‘constitutional option’ would require the chair to overturn previous precedent, either by ruling on a question that by precedent has been submitted to the Senate, or by ruling non-debatable a question that by precedent has been treated as debatable.”

Graham and McCain could have highlighted the hypocrisy of Harry Reid instead of undermining their own Minority Leader, but instead they chose to embrace Reid’s threat to employ the nuclear option as credible, thereby legitimizing the idea of a nuclear option.  But why undermine a Senate Majority Leader from the opposing party when he overreached, if you could frag your own party leadership? And why continue to characterize your resistance to an expanded role for government in regulating the financial sector, when the banking crisis was brought about by a lack of enforcement rather than a lack of bureaucracy?

Why do any these things, when you’re the biggest frag in the Senate, and you can undermine your own party’s credibility? That’s Lindsey Graham, the biggest frag in the Senate.

jay batmanJay Batman is a graduate of the Texas Tech University School of Law, where he attained his J.D. in May 2013.  He completed a B.A. in English with a minor in Political Science at the University of Montevallo in 2002. He is employed with Dustin Stockton Political Strategies, LLC, and presently resides in West Texas with his dog and co-author, Buddy Love