Lindsey Graham, Kyrsten Sinema Trade Barbs On Senate Floor Over Failed Border Bill

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


Sparks flew on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday between Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona after the chamber failed to advance what had been a bipartisan immigration bill that fell apart after a majority of Republicans claimed it did not go far enough to secure the border.

As Graham spoke about his decision to vote ‘no’ on the bill that Sinema helped craft, she asked him at one point if he would yield to a question, to which he agreed.

“Oh. Thank you. Thank you. Senator, I was just listening carefully to your speech, and you mentioned that you thought the bill that we had drafted and introduced yesterday was a good start but not enough. Yeah. I’m wondering if, if, you would remind us how you voted yesterday on the motion to proceed to the bill that had the border package that we worked on together?” the Arizona senator asked.

“I’ll be glad to. I voted no because I didn’t see a process in place or willingness by my Democratic colleagues to allow me to express. I think it could be better, see in the Gang of Eight. You weren’t here, but Sen. [John] McCain was; we worked really hard. Senator Bennett was involved in all this stuff in 2013, and we let the bill come to the floor, people amend it, and we spent days and weeks. So that’s why I voted, ‘No,’” Graham explained before Sinema interrupted to ask if he would allow another question.

“No, no, I, I am reclaiming my time,” Graham insisted.

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“So here’s what I’m saying. This has been a half-assed effort to deal with border security for the people,” Graham continued as Sinema kept pressing for a question.

“No, I am speaking. Speak later,” Graham responded.

“To the people in the House, we have not really tried hard to secure the border. We took a well-meaning product. People worked really hard. I applaud you and others for coming out with a product that I thought had a lot of good things in it, but not enough for me,” the Republican said.

“Yield to a question?” Sinema again interjected.

“No, to my House colleagues, you can do better than this. Don’t send us back H.R.- 2. It’s not going anywhere. You know, you couldn’t get all Republicans for H.R.- 2. We lost one Republican and got no Democrat. So this idea we’ve done enough on the border is BS. I am not done. I’m not going to help Ukraine until we first do a better job helping ourselves,” Graham said before allowing Sinema to speak.

“Thank you. Now, Senator Graham, I know you’ve been here quite a bit longer than me, but it is my understanding that in order to get to the portion of a bill where we offer amendments on the floor, we first have to pass the motion to proceed. And it is also my understanding that it was offered by leadership and the three sponsors of the border Bill, which your team gratefully helped us create, that we would have an open amendment process. So could you help me understand why you voted against the motion to proceed?” she said.

“I’ll be glad to,” Graham said.

“Before we were able to offer any amendments, including your amendments,” Sinema said.

“Yes. I think the fix is in. I think people on our side and your side wanted to do the border thing as quick as they could, so we could get the Ukraine, and I don’t trust the system here to be able to allow us to have the debate that we had for the Gang of Eight bill,” the Republican said.

“That’s why I voted ‘no,’ because I didn’t see any willingness in my. It proved to be correct because now the Republican leadership has joined with a. Democratic leadership to shut down debate on the border bill, throwing a few amendments on the Ukraine bill and saying, aren’t you happy now? No, I am not happy. I am not happy. I made it that I wanted to secure the border before I helped Ukraine. Everything you say about Ukraine is right. I was not kidding. To our colleagues in the House, we’ve done a half-assed job here trying to secure the border,” the South Carolina senator said.

“We shut this thing down, unlike any other time I’ve been involved in immigration. I’ve taken a lot of hard votes. You’ve taken a lot of hard. I know you’ve been kicked around. I understand it. Senator Lankford, I admire the hell out of him. I thought you produced a pretty good product and a really good product in some areas, but it wasn’t enough,” he said.

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“For those of you who want to help Ukraine, you’ve made it harder. We’re going to lose a handful of Republican votes over here because they felt they were shut out in the debate about how to secure the border,” Graham added.

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