By Alexander Bolton - 10/06/11 03:08 PM EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) declared on the Senate floor Thursday that he would buck Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and vote to advance legislation cracking down on Chinese currency manipulation.
His impassioned speech eviscerated any excuse Republican lawmakers might have for sustaining a filibuster because Democrats limited the amendment process.
Democrats were gleeful that McConnell, a formidable tactician, had been outmaneuvered just a few hours after he predicted the bill’s demise during a Wednesday evening television interview.
McConnell had tried to hold up the bill to protest Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) use of a procedural tactic known as filling the tree to stifle GOP amendments.
McConnell was trying to protect his colleagues’ ability to offer amendments, as well as his own plan to force Democrats to vote on President Obama’s jobs bill.
But Graham punctured a hole in McConnell’s strategy by shaming any lawmaker that would vote against moving forward on the China bill.
“Enough is enough,” Graham said. “I am sorry the amendment process around this place is so screwed up.
“I try to be a team player where I can be, because I believe Senator McConnell is doing a very good job. Senator Reid has got his agenda [but] it is not about Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell. It is about people in my state who will lose their job if we don’t do something,” Graham said.
Graham said he is tired of partisan squabbles over procedure, and urged his colleagues to act.
“The institution I need to be protecting is the American workforce, who is having their clock cleaned by a communist dictatorship who cheats,” Graham said.
Graham backed up his tough talk by working feverishly behind the scenes with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to round up GOP votes. He helped persuade Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Portman, and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of his best friends in the Senate.
Lieberman had initially told the bill’s supporters in private that he would vote 'no.'
McConnell said on CNBC Wednesday evening that the China bill is “probably not going anywhere” and is “highly unlikely to pass.” It was unclear from his comments whether he was referring to Senate passage or more broadly about the chances of the bill becoming law.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said this week it would be “pretty dangerous” to threaten China with trade sanctions because of a dispute over currency.
The White House does not support the bill either, but neither the president nor his advisers have made a formal statement of opposition.
—This story was updated at 12:01 p.m.