December 20th, 2009
12:35 PM ET
9 months ago

Graham: Dems engaging in 'seedy Chicago politics'


Washington (CNN) – Saying the White House and congressional Democrats were using “backroom deals that amount to bribes,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed Democratic efforts to pass health care reform.

Speaking Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Graham, R-South Carolina, took issue with a campaign trail pledge made by the Obama campaign to change how things work in Washington.

Obama and his team “ran a brilliant campaign,” Graham told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King,” but they're doing a lousy job governing the country, in my view.”

“You know, change you can believe in,” Graham said referring to a frequent theme of Obama’s underdog presidential campaign, “after this health care bill debacle, [that] has now becoming an empty slogan. And it's really been replaced by seedy Chicago politics, when you think about it, backroom deals that amount to bribes.”

Acknowledging that those were strong words, Graham backed up his assertions by pointing to a number of attributes of the health care reform bill now under consideration in the Senate. “This bill personifies the worst of Washington,” Graham said Sunday.

Referring to one of the biggest accounting scandals in recent memory, Graham said the bill was characterized by “Enron accounting techniques.”

The South Carolina Republican said that the House and Senate are not likely actually to impose cuts on the amount the Medicare program pays doctors. “So when you put that into the health care mix, this thing doesn't save money; it costs money. And that's phony,” said Graham.

The Republican senator also said that Congress is not likely actually to cut $470 billion from the Medicare program, a move that finances roughly half of the Senate bill’s costs over the first ten years.

“We will start forgiving those cuts to doctors and hospitals,” Graham told King. “So it is Enron-accounting. It is a sham.”

Graham also faulted the Senate bill for beginning to collect taxes immediately in order cover its costs but only paying out benefits during six of its first ten years after passage.

And the often soft-spoken Republican let loose on a provision in the Senate bill that involves the federal government in paying for long-term care insurance.

Graham quoted fellow Senator Kent Conrad, D-North Dakoka, who had described the new long-term care program “a Ponzi scheme of the first order,” a program “that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of.” Graham added, “So any Democratic senator who votes for this bill is a co-conspirator to one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in the history of Washington.”

And Graham took issue with a sweetheart deal Senate Democratic leaders negotiated with conservative Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Under the deal, the federal government will foot the bill in perpetuity for any additional Medicaid costs incurred by Nebraska as a result of passing the health care reform bill.

“Is it constitutional?,” Graham asked Sunday about the deal negotiated by Nelson. “I want the attorney general of South Carolina to look at this.”

Appearing earlier on State of the Union, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod defended the deal top Senate Democrats made with Nelson in order to secure the crucial 60th vote necessary to get the bill through the chamber.

“I think every senator uses whatever leverage they have to help their states. That's the way it's been. That's the way it will always be,” Axelrod said to King. “And people want their legislators to advocate for their states.”


Filed under: Health care • Lindsey Graham • Popular Posts • Senate • State of the Union
soundoff (210 Responses)
  1. scott in Tucson........

    And Republicans have engaged in seedy anti middle class obstructionism Politics towards solving the problems they themselves generated for our American economy..........

    December 20, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. katiec

    If it wasn't so sad it would be funny as to how the republicans so easily forget, or fail to mention the tactics they were part of these last eight years.
    And, their actions now. So many hide behind the Bible while lying, distorting, attacking, inciting hate, anger, fear mongering and obstruction. Have never seen a political party stoop to the level they
    have for the sake of party first, big business and win at any cost.
    Seedy? They invented and enforce that word.
    Every republican in the house voted against Finance Reform. They tried to fillibuster on funds for our troops. They totally sacrifice the
    American people for greed, power and big business.
    They are a disgrace.

    December 20, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  3. trying to be reasonable in WV

    This process of building this legislation has been a despicable spectacle for sure. And yet Graham believes the Republicans are guiltless . . . Absurd. Their obstructionism has more to do with the ugliness of this legislation than the actions of any single Democrat senator or group of senators. Their cynical political opportunism is the truly despicable spectacle. Country first??? Puh-leezz!

    December 20, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. Pragmatic

    More mock "outrage" ... just like McCain defending Lieberman's right to natter on forever ... forgetting that he (McCain) often cut off Democrats debate ...

    Hard to change Washington when the GOP decided to vote "no" on everything ... and they decided that the night Obama won the election. Read the bill aloud? Not to get information but only to delay ... republicans asked for the bill to be read – then left ...

    December 20, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  5. Obama Mama

    Uh oh think the republicans will have to find another way to reline their pockets once our president makes all transparent. Shaking in their boots.....

    December 20, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  6. gary

    Maybe if Grahm had offered to serously work with Democrats things would be different. The party of NO has no future.

    December 20, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. Rico

    Pluh-lease. How many times has President Obama reached across the ailse only to get his hand slapped. For God's sake, he encourage the Senate Majority leadership to let Lieberman keep his chairmanships even after he campaigned for the other party's candidate. Yet, the GOPs only strategy is to stonewall.

    The GOP controlled three branches of government and had no interest in getting this done, and now that the Democrats are in the red zone, the GOP whines about not having enough time. I am tired of the GOP thinking no one is paying attention.

    December 20, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  8. Scout

    What a brilliant slew of attacks guys!!! One question – when does the majority here start taking responsibility for their actions? Probably never. All of you are a bunch of childres, "well, Bush did this and Bush did that." You lot are a sick bunch of people. Great ad hominem attacks; hopefully you will start debating the merits of an argument one day and cease to discrediting your cause.

    December 20, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. Rosa, b'ham al

    Kettle meet pot. Is he serious? The party of No has perfected seedy politics.

    December 20, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. President Obama's "porkulus" package is bringing home the bacon!

    Looks like Lindsey stopped slobbering all over McCrypt long enough to make a television appearance.

    Lindsey, those "bribes" are more accurately called "pork" and every state's senator eventually gets a slice and if they do not, then time to fire the Senator. These types of deals have gone on since there was a Congress and you know it. At least President Obama has made it transparent enough that we the people know the Senator attached to the pork and who gets it, unlike the 8 years under King George the II's reign.

    When Nebraska gets state paid Medicaid it is a "bribe" to all the cons, but the people of Nebraska will be quite pleased with any extra benefits the Senator can get for his state.

    Some days your not on the receiving end of the "pork"and it is a 'bribe" and some days when you are on the receiving end of the "pork" it is good governing for you constituents. Just ask Cronyn and Hutchinson about the "pork" they get for the Texas military bases above what is in the defense bill.

    The job of a Senator is to help the people of his/her state, Lindsey.

    December 20, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  11. Ted

    Graham has decided now to call out the way things have been done in DC for years and years?? Hypocrite.

    "I must say that I don't know what's happening here in this body, but I think its wrong. I have been around here for 20-some years. [This is] the first time I have ever seen a member denied an extra minute or two to finish his remarks."
    – Sen. John 'I Forgot' McCain

    Please enact single-term limits.

    December 20, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  12. Terry from West Texas

    A slimeball is calling the sleazeballs slick? What a shock!

    Sure there are backroom deals going on. This is how it is when the vote is close. The Senators who are on the fence say, "I'll vote for/vote against this bill if you vote for my bill to build a new hospital in my disctrict or my bill to excuse a company in my district for exceeding pollution limits. This is done by career politicians on a daily basis. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

    Is anyone in America actually surprised? If so, then let me tell you another shocker: Texas has a house of ill repute in it. If you don't like it, elect someone with some integrity. You Republicans have sent the sorriest bunch of lowlifes that has ever walked the halls of Congress. You Democrats seem to prefer wheeler-dealer career politicians to anything else. We Liberals haven't managed to accomplish much since Lyndon Johnson left office.

    December 20, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. TBA

    Sounds like the RNC/GOP is crying b/c their masters the BIG INSURANCE COMPANY and Rush "Drug Lord Addicate" Limbaugh not going to be happy b/c Am public is going to have some kinda health coverage. Look at what the Bush Admin did the pass 8 yrs they not crying about that b/c their pockets line with CASH. With the GOP/RNC support of the Fox News Network broadcasting 24/7 fear tatics scaring people about this bill.

    December 20, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. Fitz in Texas

    Both parties are "seedy" But I do have to laugh at the "seedy" comments from the left. When they're told to jump by folks like Obama, Reid, Pelosi and the rest they answer....."how high?"

    December 20, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  15. Stike 1

    Another subject that he knows nothing about. If it were seedy Chicago politics he would have been outfitted with a pair of concrete footwear and swimming with the fishes. This guy is another GOP phoney like his lord and master McCain.

    December 20, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  16. amy

    Guess what Lindsey – I'm a former life long Republican from YOUR district. You drove me from the GOP with your hypocrite, racist ways. Not only me, but my family and friends. You should hear the talk on the street in YOUR district about you – It's not good.

    December 20, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  17. Al Alvarez

    So Nelson is holding out and engaging in negotiations so his constituency can benefit from any health care reform bill?

    Next thing you senators may actually help the people who elected them.

    What does this idiot Graham think he was elected to do?

    December 20, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. jimmm

    Perhaps, the headline should read" GOP Opts Out of Trying to Find Solutions to Countries Issues".

    The GOP had its chance to participate, but instead they are filibustering any legislation. They have forfeited the right to complain.

    December 20, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  19. jrzshor

    if demos are doing back room deals they are doing them with the best interests of all the people. yeh, so what if it costs me (a people) more of my money in taxes, so those who pay little or no taxes get more stuff. why would i care that i may have to pay more for my already expensive health care so that others may share an almost no cost burden?

    December 20, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  20. Amazing!!

    Look who's talking about 'seedy'!? You only have to look back 8 years to see the actual seedy poilitics the last administration ran. Plus how about the seedy South Carolina politics of overlooking the philandering governor using tax payers money on his mistress before getting caught.

    So Mr. Graham, think before you open your own seedy political mouth! Merry F-ing xmass you hypocrite!

    December 20, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. Brian

    Nate is exactly right – this debate should have taken place in the light of day and between both parties. The deals that have been made in exchange for votes are beyond reproach. Plus, most acknowledge the cuts to Medicare called for in the bill will likely never be passed in future years. Therefore, this deal will not be revenue neutral or positive, but another massive spending increase.

    Too many of you "pundits" that just rail against anything coming form the opposing party are increasingly blind to the truth. Open your eyes and understand both sides before spouting off your nonsense in these forums.

    December 20, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. jeremy.....Dallas...Texas

    What ponzi is greater than iraq war especialy defense contractors? Americans wake up. Republicans hate middle class and will always stop anyone helping middle class. We pay taxes and they dont.

    December 20, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  23. JD

    Unfortunately the "Health Care Reform Bill" is a byproduct of the need to pass "something". It is the proverbial camel. It cuts Medicare to the point that it will just as impossible for Medicare recepients to find a doctor as it has been for an idividual covered by Medicaid. Neither party is truly interested in reforming the health care system but only want to develop a bigger power base. The average citizen will be screwed again. The insurance companies have been made the enemy, but if one actually took the time to investigate the profit margin, it is a 5% business. The bill does nothing to cut costs, merely transfers them for the short term and then the explosion will be horrific.

    The "reform" is phony. The whole health care system is dysfunctional and needs to be changed, not the method of payment. There is no mention of tort reform which physicians blame for high costs but if there was tort reform, do you really think their fees will drop? The proliferation of cosmetic plastic surgery is a waste of limited resources in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Doctors used to drive Buicks now it is BMWs and Mercedes etc.. The medical profession needs to look inward as to whatthey can do to reshape the delivery system other than generating more income. The Hippocratic Oath is now an afterthought.

    December 20, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. steve

    Democrats should after passage of the health care reform investigate and expose the source of the rumor about closing a base in nebraska as "threat " to win Sen Ben Nelson`s vote. Emails has shown that some former MCcain aids are behind it. Weekly standard and fox news pushed it anyway knowing it was false. Somebody has to pay for that falsehood.
    Otherwise Journalism is DEAD in this country.

    December 20, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  25. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    "The South Carolina Republican said that the House and Senate are not likely actually to impose cuts on the amount the Medicare program pays doctors. “So when you put that into the health care mix, this thing doesn't save money; it costs money. And that's phony,”

    If Congress doe NOT do it's job, how is that a FAILURE on the branch of the government called the executive branch headed by President Obama? You, Senator Graham would be the failure.

    Do these cons ever listen to what stupid statements they are making?

    But then given the political cesspool in S.C, I guess anything that FLOATS is qualified for Senator.

    December 20, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
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