Lindsey Graham Would Support Republicans Denying Quorum in Filibuster Clash

Senator Lindsey Graham has called on Republicans to deny the quorum if Democrats push ahead with plans to reform the upper chamber's filibuster rule, which he says would make it easier for them to pass "radical" bills.

The South Carolina Republican said on Wednesday night that the GOP should threaten to use "all the tools in the toolbox" to curb any Democratic attempt to boost their power and control in the Senate.

He also said "all options" were on the table for Republicans—a nod to remarks Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) made in September last year as former President Donald Trump moved to fill former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat.

Posting on social media, Sen. Graham said: "To borrow a phrase from Senator Schumer, when it comes to standing up to the most radical agenda in US Senate history - All options are on the table for Republicans.

Senator Lindsey Graham
Sen. Lindsey Graham arrives at a news conference in response to President Joe Biden’s withdrawal announcement from Afghanistan at the U.S. Capitol on April 14, 2021. Alex Wong/Getty Images

"Republican[s] needs to make it clear that if there is an effort to change the filibuster to pass the Democrats radical agenda we, as Republicans, will use all the tools in the toolbox to stop the power grab – including the denial of a quorum."

He is not the only Republican senator to threaten the quorum in the party's push back against filibuster reform. "Nothing will happen in the Senate. They need us to show up to have a quorum," Sen. Rick Scott of Florida told Fox News in March. "They need us there if they want to get something done."

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that same month, Sen. Mitch McConnell called on readers to imagine a Senate where "every single task requires a physical quorum of 51 senators on the floor."

The Constitution requires that 51 senators, also known as a quorum, be present in the upper chamber for the Senate to be able to do business. The Senate typically works on the presumption that a quorum is present, even if it's not.

But should a lawmaker take issue with a quorum not being present, the presiding officer has to initiate a roll call. When it is apparent that there are not 51 senators in the chamber, business cannot resume until they are present.

Yet, the framers of the Constitution foresaw lawmakers using such a power to grind government to a halt, and gave the House and the Senate the power to compel the attendance of absent members.

If Senators fail to show up, they can face penalties from fines to arrest. The Senate's sergeant at arms can also be deployed to compel senators to attend business in the upper chamber.

Former Republican Sen. Robert Packwood was brought to the chamber in 1988 by the then-sergeant at arms and six Capitol police officers as the Democratic majority leader sought to end a filibuster. Packwood tried to block the door to his office with a heavy chair.

Given past precedent, any denial of the quorum would likely prove to be a symbolic gesture, rather than an effective block on Senate business.