(CNN) – In a stunning move that could throw a major roadblock in front of two of President Obama's biggest legislative initiatives, Sen. Lindsey Graham abruptly declared Saturday he's abandoning talks on climate change legislation because he believes Democratic efforts to bring up a separate immigration reform package is undermining the legislative process.
"Moving forward on immigration - in this hurried, panicked manner - is nothing more than a cynical political ploy," the South Carolina Republican wrote in a sharply-worded letter obtained by CNN.
The letter was sent to business, religious, and conservation leaders that the senator has been working with on the climate change legislation. An aide to Graham told CNN the senator will no longer be attending a major news conference scheduled for Monday with Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to unveil details of their "tri-partisan" climate change legislation.
Graham is the only leading Republican who has been working with the White House on the contentious issue.
A senior White House official told CNN that in recent days Graham has been privately threatening that he would abandon the climate talks unless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, backed off of plans to push forward with comprehensive immigration reform ahead of the environmental legislation.
Reid released a statement Saturday saying he’s still committed to tackling both issues and will not be deterred by Graham’s decision.
“I appreciate the work of Senator Graham on both of these issues and understand the tremendous pressure he is under from members of his own party not to work with us on either measure,” said Reid. “But I will not allow him to play one issue off of another, and neither will the American people. They expect us to do both, and they will not accept the notion that trying to act on one is an excuse for not acting on the other."
An aide said Graham was involved in a "flurry" of talks in the last 48 hours with Kerry and Lieberman and in those conversations nobody disabused the Republican of - as CNN reported Friday – the fact that Senate Democrats have changed course and will now move immigration ahead of climate change on the legislative calendar in the coming weeks. CNN reported Friday that climate change is now unlikely to even make it to the Senate floor at all this year.
Graham's decision to release the letter allowed the private negotiations to spill into the public, and administration officials acknowledge it now could be much harder for Obama to get bipartisan consensus on both issues that are key to his agenda.
In his letter, Graham blasted the Democratic plans to move immigration reform ahead of climate change legislation: "Let's be clear, a phony, political effort on immigration today accomplishes nothing but making it exponentially more difficult to address in a serious, comprehensive manner in the future”
"Unless their plan substantially changes this weekend, I will be unable to move forward on energy independence legislation at this time. I will not allow our hard work to be rolled out in a manner that has no chance of success,” he added.
But a senior Democratic source involved in the climate change talks fired back that "the only thing 'phony' here is Lindsay Graham" because he's pulling out amid pressure from fellow Republicans to block Obama's agenda.
This is also an about-face on immigration reform for Graham because he has been pressing the White House to move forward on comprehensive reform on that issue as well. His move comes just one day after Obama called on both parties to pass immigration reform on the federal level in response to a new law in Arizona that will allow local police to stop individuals suspected of being illegal immigrants.
Democrats privately charged Saturday that Graham was trying to scuttle immigration reform in order to protect his close friend, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, from having to deal with a sticky issue in advance of his tough August GOP primary battle in Arizona to keep his Senate seat. McCain has previously pushed for comprehensive immigration reform but has been recently talking about securing America's borders first, a position that puts the senator more in line with his conservative primary opponent, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.
But Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop told CNN those allegations are "nonsense." He said Graham's letter has nothing to do with McCain and everything to do with the fact that Senate Democrats are talking about a quick three-week window to try and push through immigration reform.
"Senator Graham worked on immigration for many months in 2007 with virtually every senator and two cabinet secretaries," said Bishop. "It was an unprecedented effort and it is what it takes to put together a comprehensive plan. A serious immigration plan cannot be put together in three weeks."
So Obama gets blasted by his conservative critics for not acting fast enough on immigration reform, and then when he moves to take action, they say he needs to slow down? Immigration reform and environmental reform are two efforts than can be successfully completed concurrently. The work of the Congress is not a one-act-at-a-time variety show where we get to laugh at the comedian and then marvel at the plate-spinning guy. The only posturing here is by Graham. He's been feeling the heat from his own side by cooperating with the Dems and he's lost his nerve. Spineless.
He finally broke away from the communist agenda of total dominance over the American people. Be careful Senator, MSNBC and the left-wing hate sites will now try to marginalize you under instructions from the Obama administration.
November elections are coming up and Dems are going to need those votes .. gotta get those illegals legal as quickly as possible ..what could be more important than that?
Lindsey Graham, is a very Stupid man, he needs to top player hatting. get out of office you are a disgrace.
Well, I hope a lot of conservative politicians are listening to their constituents–unlike the liberal politicians who will be voted out too. The people are sick of this radical leftism. To Obama, bipartisan means conservatives a chance to jump on his bandwagon, not that conservatives and liberals will sit down together and work out something both can accept. Obama wants to run the banks, the auto makers, the Supreme Court, and now the individual states (warning AZ he will "keep his eye" on them following their logical, new immigraion law). Good for Graham!
Lindsay Graham is a right wing dork. The right wing will oppose Obama no matter what. But their savior is waiting in the wings. One of this country's all time dummies – Sarah Palin
I think that Senator Graham's move has more to do with his problems within his party than anything else. Republicans just cannot be seen as willing to work with Democrats on any issue. To think that Congress cannot deal with two issues at once or one after the other is ridiculous - as though they're starting from scratch on either one! Plus, Senator Graham has been the subject of some accusatory comments recently. Perhaps he's trying too hard to be true to all that the current Republican party stands for. It's a shame - I've always thought he was basically a good guy. Not in this current political climate where he keeps company with Kyl, Cornyn, McConnell - not to mention the formerly honorable McCain. Sad.
I'm still waiting for that town hall featuring Graham to be shown nationally each five minutes like the astroturfs last September and the teabaggers now. It must be in the same bitbucket that caught 400 Sarah Palin sheep booing her right out of Indiana on her booktour.
I am glad there is someone with a back bone to stand against immigration to illigals. All Democrats are after is votes they don't care about the country. If they did then they would fix the border issues first and then deal with all the illigal immigrants here in the country. There are thousands of people applying to enter the country legally whereas these people come here like criminals. There is poverty all over the world are we going to let everyone come here illigally then? Does not make any sense.
How about putting country first instead of your cronies Sen Graham and you might remind them of that also.
Now he doesn't like how fast and secrative that the dems are shoving things through congress? Why didn't he speak up sooner and perhaps we wouldn't be so far in debt and a land of entitlement?
No worries CNN, Obama and his socialistic ideas are so apparent now, the majority of America do not trust him and see him for the inept person that he is and the majority of America no longer trust CNN....way to go!
November will be AWESOME...can't wait to see the Dems pack thier bags and crawl back under the dumb rocks that they came from. Perhaps then CNN will return to honest journalism, such as FOX. You and the "President" would do well to follow their lead.
Moving forward on immigration – in this hurried, panicked manner – is nothing more than a cynical political ploy.
What you repugs are doing is a political ploy. Repubs have crippled any decision making. You repub morons will lose heavily in Nov election.
Paging Mr. Copy Editor... this blurb clearly has not been proofread. Subject-verb agreement: "Democratic efforts... is"; run-on sentences; overall poorly written article.
And Obama was on such a roll. Dangit. Immigration is such a taboo hot button these days with millions unemployed.
"Senate Democrats are talking about a quick three-week window to try and push through immigration reform."
THREE WEEKS? Immigration reform done in three weeks?
Are these guys CRAZY? Our futures are in the hands of IDIOTS!
And Obama was on such a roll. Dangit. Immigration is such a taboo hot button these days with millions unemployed and companies looking to only hire temp workers
I don't much like Graham or the repubs, but on this issue, I agree with him. To toss aside a bipartisan effort on energy in a belated effort to shore up Latino support for the midterm elections will insure that neither energy nor dealing with border security and illegal immigration will be dealt with seriously.
So Reid may lose his seat...so might McCain. That's democracy in action, and trying to prevent it by pulling a last-minute amnesty is dirty pool.
Sen Graham should have never started a sell-out to liberals in the first place. Cap and tax is nothing but a huge inflationary tax increase on all consumers that will effect all Americans. You libs will scream like stuck pigs when the full breadth of cap and tax along will the Obama VAT tax hits. You have no idea how serious this is. Graham first came in with the Gindgrich revolution in 1994 and has sold out conservatives. He should run as a democrat or independent and SC should elect a true conservative as their next Senator.
GOP is party of no ideas,bunch of lunatics who have no positive mental attitude toward sensitive issue like immigration and progress of this country. On national issues thier party comes first and america last. SHAME ON GOP AND THEIR LEADERSHIP
How about we start deporting all the illegals, and that will make
health care more affordable.
Typical approach of the current regime, rush dealing with our most important issues while ensuring the details are kept as complex as possible. If Sen. Graham refusing to cooperate keeps a nonsensical bill from being passed then fine by me. Passing a poorly constructed bill is not necessarily better than no bill.
Graham is on the run having seen the sign of defeat. Obama should pursue him with immigration reform. If possible, use any political geometry to have it passed. These few months to November are for political chess. Interesting!
Republicans never choose to confront the most pressing, difficult policy solutions that confront our country. It is always easier to run away and find someone or something else to blame. However, I now wonder if Lindsey Graham is being threatened by his Republican leadership for cooperating with President Obama. How sad and pathetic this all is shaping up to be .Also in question, the gay rumors about Lindsey Graham may be true, based on his last minute actions. Again, pathetic.
Graham and the rest of these GOP ought to start a circus act., or at least join SeaWorld staff. They are getting really, really good at jumping the shark.
Apparently the Party of No cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. Why are these guys in Washington, if they don't intend to do the job they were sent there for??