(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."
The GOP, the party that likes to party in a fetish house, the toe tapping, glued to my chair party of do nothing. Yes indeed, the destroy America at all cost party! Makes me glad I voted them out when they failed America oh so long ago.
Good. This plan sucks. 3 different big oil companies are pushing it, so it can't be THAT productive as far as climate change goes. Scrap the bill and get the Prez to issue some executive orders.
totus... you really think that Obama is lazier that GWB? how many naps did that dude take?
Republicans are a funny bunch. When the president takes time to assess a particular item "on the docket," they accuse him of lagging. When he jumps into action, they accuse him of being hasty. He simply can't win with the GOP and it's right wing disciples who are not only sore losers but, comically, throwing tantrums as though they had regressed back to their "terrible twos."
The Republicans can't walk and chew gum at the same time . President Obama is running circle around these clowns. It's called multi-tasking "wussy pants Lindsey Graham".
Climate change? Obama truly believes he's God. He's insane. Seriously.
Oh my gosh . . . commie, socialist, environmentalist, tax raiser, European sympathizer, non-citizen, anti-gun guy, and there's more . . . he plays golf! America is doomed!
For a few seconds during the Sotomayor hearings I had a bit of respect for Graham. I guess that the Republican masters have decided that no Republican can do anything that might suggest that any Democrat has any idea of merit. I think this move will push the Republicans further toward irrelevance (except for the birthers like Totus for President below). Mostly this is just tiresome.
Lindsey Graham –
the democrats dislike him
the teabaggers despise him
the old line republicans are tired of him
he'll be a lobbyist before too long....
He remembered that they are the party of no.
A snake will always be a snake and the (Re)pukes are snakes.
So climate change isn't as important as politics to him apparently. Right now it seems that politics is more important than any issue to the Republicans in Congress!
Bobble-headed is just that. Bobble-headed. So is posturing. He could have done better but is under the spell of "NO"
Wow! The Republicans were in office for 8 years and did nothing about the economy, the environment/Global Warming and immigration reform. We have a state is enacting a law that directly violates the Tenth Amendment by set-up its own immigration law and the Republicans are heading for the hills. Yes, illegal immigration is a problem- one that should have and could have been solved years ago is the Republicians had the will to do something about it. Instead of leading, the Repbulicans are listing to a band of ignorant clowns in the Tea Party movement, who are more than willing to get their Social Security/Medicare, but don't want to do anything for the rest of the US population. Enough is enough! As independent voter, I will give money, time and lots of energy to fit these fools tooth and nail to move this country forward, not backwards.
Green Energy reform for energy independence is infinitely more important than Immigration reform. Democrats are trying to get a quick bill passed before the elections because they fear getting mired in another drawn-out debate like the one for Health Insurance reform. I love Obama, but he needs to put this issue first, along with jobs, jobs, jobs rather than politics, politics, politics. Maybe the dems think that they will not get a chance at these important issues unless they will the political games first, and get enough seats to do more reform after the Nov. elections. It's sad that Washington is so messed up.
What does immigration reform have to do with an energy bill. The republicans are despicable and should just let the adults make the laws now. The republicans just stand there and lie and the media lets them get away with it for the most part.
It's ironic that Graham berates the Dems for "political ploys." He's condemning the entire planet just to make a political point.
During Bush's 8 years in office he took nearly 1000 days vacation (1/3 of his presidency) at either Camp David or Crawford, Texas, and when at the White Office he stayed in the shadows along with Cheney plotting illegal wars and torture and infringing on our liberties in the name of national security! What a disgrace he was! President Obama keeps Americans informed of important issues and brings an intellect to the White House that was visibly missing with Bush and Cheney.
Immigration reform? Climate change legislation? How long ago did this Administration that jobs would be "priority #1" for them?
Oh no! Socialist, non-citizen, big taxer, European sympathizer, anti-gun guy, wealth spreader, and worse! Now we find out that he actually plays golf. Obama plays golf! That's a Republican game! Now he's really in trouble.
The GOP will do nothing but continue to divide this country. Eight years of Bush failures and intentionally crippled this country economics.... you people don't have America's best interest. Stop the division!
Wow, a Republican going against the Obama Administration. Who'd a thunk it? TOTUS you are a complete tool.
So the rest of the world can multitask, but not the Senate, more specifically, Lindsay Graham?
We can't tackle more than one piece of legislation at a time? How about we just start a new test. No longer will it be to be a certain age for Congress 30/35, it should be can you walk and chew gum or rub your stomach and pat your head.
This is a joke. Stop crying and get back to work. All of the politicians work for us. Let's just fire all the incumbants.
That's very sad, indeed. I expected more out of Sen. Graham but then I don't know what I was expecting, really, after his attacks on Sotomayor during her confirmation hearings. When will this nonsense stop and people realize that we need to work together and that there's nothing wrong with reaching compromise and having constructive debates on the issues? When will these elected officials remember the PEOPLE whom voted them into office to get things done, not to grandstand and obstruct. Wake up, Republicans! We're in this together.
Hey "Totus For President" – do you know how much vacation time Bush took while Cheney ran the country? I suggest you google it... think it may come as a big surprise.