(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."
He is moving ahead fo the President. I haven't heard anywhere the president said he is going to do the immigration reform as of yet!
Gee, I guess a republican senator can't walk and chew gum at the same time like the rest of his cronies. As usual the backroom deals come first and to heck with the American people.
Immigration reform and climate change has been an issue for years now. Republicans have had plenty of time to deal with these issues and have done NOTHING about it. Enough with the snail's pace agenda.
We elected a president to get the job done. And that's exactly what he's trying to do. So live with it!
I think both parties need to chill for a bit. Get over themselves and see what is really important. Obama needs to get in gear and get the economy up and running and both sides need to help him. Bogus climate change can wait. Cap and trade can wait. When it comes to immigration....either enforce what is already on the books or open the border. From what I can see....Obama isn't going to do anything about the border so the states might as well do it.
So, the sore loser party does it again! Big surprise there!
What a silly spiteful petulant little boy. Is there no end to the partisan obstructions the Republi-can'ts are capable of coming up with?
A voice of reason....not what the ignorant call a ploy. When will the people of this country stop the Obama agenda that is running roughshod over this country and our constitution. If you like socialism and want a dictatorm there are plenty of countries you can move to and take the handouts.
Graham is just worried about keeping his job as our senator in SC. He realized that he's on the wrong side of this issue, and the voters here ins SC are going to replace him at the next election. He's a typical politician and will do what he thinks is necessary to stay in power so he thinks by flip-flopping on this climate change BS he'll win us over. Wrong. We have a long memory and we haven't forgotten his snide, condescending remarks to the people of this state when we've disagreed with him in the past. Bye, bye, Lindsey...
How dare Obama work on two things at once, doesn't he know that republicans are incapable of dealing with that kind of stress, poor babies, they need someone to come and do their jobs for them.
Typical Republican. "If you don't play my way I'll take my toys and go home."
Did anyone think a Republican was going to work with Obama?
I'm sure the Repugs got to him...threatening him in some way to abandon doing what's right. I've never seen a crowd like this selfish, greedy bunch of GOP members in the Congress!!! They could care less about the stability of the country, health of the American people, or an obligation to protect the planet.
Funny that he suddenly changed his mind right after William Gheen "outed" him at a teahadist meeting in Greenville, SC.
The Republicans just get meaner and more desperate, don't they?
How can they claim to be "for the people" and America is beyond me.
No immigration reform during the Bush years, Arizona has taken
a harsh stance and this guy is screaming "cynical political ploy" will
stop him from caring about climate change and energy independence.
Once again, Republicans unable to walk and chew gum. But they
sure can squeal!!!!!!!!
This clown may singlehandedly be responsible for the worst global catastrophe in human history. he and his fellow republicans are all in denial about climate change. it must be nice to just label something you can't understand and can't handle a hoax and go blythely about your business. guess that's a benefit of being a republican, you don't have to deal with reality, just dismiss it. are there any grown-ups or sane people in that party? i seriously doubt it. and their stubbornness and stupidity may very well doom the human species. Obama needs to leave them all behind and do what needs to be done.
Lindsey Graham is one of the biggest blow-hards in politics. The challenges of dealing with our planet's changing climate is something that can't be put off. Immigration can wait a little while longer. Chalk another one up for the close-minded folks.
Senator Graham should be commended for his standing up to this final two minute drill that Barry, Harry, and eventually Nancy will be attempting to cram down our throats just like they did with health care. Just yesterday, the CBO reported that our new wonderful socialized health care program will NOT save us money, but will instead cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, and this will NOT insure everyone in the country, (Legal and Illegal) are provided any better health care than they have today. Helloooooooo this is exactly why the Republicans did NOT support this legislation, and final bill to begin with. Everyone needs to slow down, and really dig into these major issues, as opposed to making a snap decision, which will in fact effect millions of individuals lives. More government is the problem, NOT the solution! Hang on America, November 2010 is just a few short months away!
Why is he sending letters to Religious leaders? i guess separation of church and state doesn't apply. It's about time we start taxing the churches if they going to preach politics in church.
What a surprise!!!! A GOPer who's not going to cooperate with THIS President.
WHO GIVES A CRAP ANYMORE??? ANYBODY??? NOBODY???
So, I ask in all candor, who gives a crap?! Graham is an opportunist wing nut.
Yet another Cry Wolf response by the Party of No. More lies, more deception, more obstruction, more reasons to vote them out of office.
All along senator Graham has been praised for his courage for working with senator Schumer on the immigration reform issue. The latest development today shows that the honorable senator from south carolina may not be as sincere as we thought.
If you think this wasn't his plan all along, you're high.
Immigration can wait. We've waited years and years and another year is not going to matter. Let the borde states do what they have to do to obtain safety etc. for their people. I have nothing agains immigrants, but we are being over run by them and they are costing the rest of us lots of money. Enough is enough.
Obama is a little late. The people of Arizona finally did what our federal government has been afraid to do. Enforce laws.
Now Obama is afraid he is going to lose all those Latino votes.
Your name, GOP Taliban speaks for itself. Since both the state and federal government regulate, comprehensively, coal mine safety and oil rig safety, it is difficult to understand how you can think that a new Global Warming/Green Energy plan will change what they already have, regulatory power, and apparently didn't enforce, as least as to the mine explosion. No one knows what caused the oil rig explosion.
Nick, your bias is showing. Enron is out of business, and it started and flourished under Dem. leadership. Went broke when Bush was Pres., but you really can't blame that whole catastrophe on one party or the other. Halliburton - Maybe you didn't notice that the French oil companies got the Iraq oil concessions. Blackwater – a whole different subject and what Sen. Lindsay's change of position had to do with that somewhat escapes me.