Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) proceeded on an asylum bill to be voted out of committee on Thursday despite protests from Democrats on the panel that he was breaking the rules. Those were Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) exact words.
"You're breaking the rules of the committee," she told him.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein: "This is unprecedented."— The Hill (@thehill) August 1, 2019
Sen. Lindsey Graham: "No, it's not."
Sen. Lindsey Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules https://t.co/xi0KzqsPYl pic.twitter.com/uOr2uHc8ea
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) protested, too.
"You're not going to respond to our point of order?" she demanded. "What rule are you pointing to that allows you to do this?"
"No, I'm not," the chairman calmly responded.
As he explained, Feinstein was the only Democrat to show up at last week's business meeting over the Secure and Protect Act. So, he decided to, just this once, change committee rules.
The flashpoint on the committee comes after all Democrats except Feinstein skipped a business meeting last Thursday when Graham's bill was on the agenda. Under committee rules two members of the minority party have to be present to take up legislation or to hold it over until the next meeting.
Because Graham wasn't able to hold over his bill, Republicans had to vote to "deem" it as held over, letting it bypass the panel's rules making it eligible for a vote on Thursday.
The chairman just couldn't put the brakes on the Senate agenda.
"To my Democratic colleagues, I've tried," he said. "I'm sorry. Blame me. But we're not going to stop."
Graham said he takes this issue "personally" and that his measure would help to fix the overwhelming flow of migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill would, in part, require asylum seekers to file their claims in Mexico or elsewhere, not here, extend the number of days a family could be held together from 20 to 100 days, and streamline the process for unaccompanied children to be sent back to their home countries.
Critics are calling it the "anti-asylum bill."
Over 150 local, state, and national organizations oppose @LindseyGrahamSC's bill to eviscerate America's asylum system.— Amnesty International (@amnestyusa) August 1, 2019
This bill would prolong child and family detention and roll back protections for children in detention. Every Senator should vote no. https://t.co/zw58lQBWgn