April 24th, 2010
04:05 PM ET
13 years ago

Graham move imperils Obama agenda

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/12/art.graham.gi.jpg caption="Graham has decided to abandon talks with Democrats on climate change legislation."]
(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."

Filed under: Immigration • Lindsey Graham • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. JJ in NY

    Perhaps now, Congress will take time to study the facts and actually read the bill before cramming it down the public's throat..... what a change from the radicals running Washington into the ground .

    April 24, 2010 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  2. Anna

    Well, surprise, surprise......a Republican not cooperating and saying "No". If you have no expectations for them, and I do not, you will never be disappointed.

    It was an excuse anyway. There is no reason why both issues can not be worked on. There would be different people involved in each area of policy development. Multitasking is President Obama's forte....it is a great quality that more people that are collecting congressional salaries should be able to do rather than acting like one trick wonders.

    April 24, 2010 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  3. America

    Why can't they do more than one thing at a time? We all have to multi-task on our jobs and home with our families. Graham, you took the punk way out. Always talking about rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. Stop your talk and get to work. Do both you lazy blow hard.

    Always want to take your ball and go home when things aren't going your way.

    April 24, 2010 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  4. keeth in california

    So be it. Go home, Graham.

    April 24, 2010 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  5. Dr.U

    The Tea Party is aptly named. Graham and his cronies are acting like snitty little girls.

    April 24, 2010 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  6. tf

    Are the Republicans so intellectually challenged that they can't deal with 2 issues in parallel? Quit whining and obstructing and get to work.

    April 24, 2010 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  7. DerekinSC

    Easy, Greenies. Agreed GOP did nothing when they could, resulting in Arizona law, Enron, and mine deaths. However, Obama's spending and expansion of Federal power have incensed the Southern electorate. Graham is under tremendous pressure (including me) to apply the brakes. He's listening to his constituency, as he should. Are you really relying on SC to pass green energy legislation? We do have ample nuclear energy, so I pay much less for electricity than most of you do. Dems and Repubs alike have to stop spending. Cap and Tax isn't a viable alternative.

    April 24, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  8. Nuller

    The real looser here is the climate and of course future generations that have to live our leftover garbage.

    April 24, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  9. Tiredof congress

    He has one money every stop the show. We ned to move forward.....

    April 24, 2010 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  10. Lib

    The Repubs have thoroughtly convinced me that they have no concerns in regards to the citizens of the US of America. The repubs are too submerged in hate.

    April 24, 2010 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  11. BlueDem1

    Big deal. I don't agree with Obama on the immigration issue (I favor stringent immigration policies), Sen. Graham's move is purely political. He claims to be a moderate, but truthfully he is another rank-n-file right-wing Republican looking to curry favor with his party's leadership to advance his own career.

    Cap-n-Trade will never become reality, either. Too many jobs at stake. Oceans will have to be flooding continents before the world will ever get serious about environmental protection.

    April 24, 2010 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  12. Becca Schwarz

    Well imagine that, someone with a enough balls to stand up for their principles, too bad the liberals see Nazi Germany in their eye's view. When those who have principles stand by them, liberals call names and try to demean, they are like little children who have been spoiled rotten. Today, they are still rotten, which makes them spoiled, usually rotten things are thrown out in the trash where it belongs, guess we know where the radical left wing should be.

    I wonder if liberals even know what morals means, probably not, they do know what corruption is and they have mastered it at the expense of hardworking citizens. Ashamed is to mellow of a word to describe what the liberal members should be, but they don't get it. Guess their Ivy League college degree didn't do much to enlarge their brains much.

    April 24, 2010 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  13. Captain America

    I'm all for immigration reform. But instead of harassing innocent Hispanics in the street hows about going after the business that, you know, actually HIRE illegal aliens so that they can pay them sub-minimum wage salaries with no health benefits? A few dozen CEOs doing the perp-walk and a few dozen business fined out of existence would end that crap right quick like! But no, can't do THAT, it would make too much sense. Carry on.

    April 24, 2010 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  14. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    Good for Senator Graham!

    The last thing this country needs is an eco-nut, knee-jerk, insanely expensive, over-reaction to what hasn't even been proven to be a problem at all, let alone a problem of human origin and thus susceptible to human solution.

    As to "immigration reform," I don't feel strongly one way or another about it and I know little of the issues involved, but I'm just about certain that anything proposed by the Democrats will cost the taxpayers a tonne of money.

    April 24, 2010 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  15. Gabriel

    There is a lot of pressure on top of this Senator, however, both legislations need to pass this year with or without him. We just want to see our congress working hard to get their job done . Are we asking much?

    April 24, 2010 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  16. Carl B

    The Corpublicans have always started out supporting legislation. Unfortunately they Never have any intention of seeing it through due to the parties neo-con ldr's agenda.

    April 24, 2010 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  17. marc

    I think this is a great move by Democrats because the last presidential election show how powerfull the spanish community are, Democrats need to put presure on pary of NO" so they loose in Nov.

    April 24, 2010 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  18. vickie

    The Obama administration should cont their efforts for the American people

    April 24, 2010 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  19. Jeff

    Before passing judgement I would like to read the proposed immigration reform bill. If the dems' immigration bill has no teeth and takes steps to keep states from protecting themselves and only serves to protect illegal immigrants ability to cone and work illegally then I would support Graham's move wholeheartedly. If the dems' immigration bill has teeth, builds walls or secures the border, deploys Nat Guard troops at border areas to stop drug and human trafficking and doesn't grant amnesty then Graham and the reps are trying to keep Obama from being successful. Do yourselves a favor, read the bill for yourselves and don't trust the TV or talking heads. Think and judge for yourselves.

    April 24, 2010 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  20. sal

    Is it me or are we tired of hearing how republicans are blocking this issue or going to be the party of no on another issue. How is the country going to move when they're not even willing to sit down and give ANY legislation a chance to be bi partisian. Work with each other on something for christ sake.

    April 24, 2010 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  21. c austin

    He never wanted to that in the first place he wanted away out and he did u know they have to keep those idiots happy rush,beck and hannity happy the party it is really sicken to me to hear gop even speak.

    April 24, 2010 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  22. cjewel74

    gop and dems need to work together in immigration is not ab political parties is ab 13 million of ppl that yes they entered illegaly but they work, they live, they buy and they have families and live their lives more legally than some true americans... and they pay a lot for the unlawfull entry by living in the shadows and be treated as slaves by the white supremacy that now wants to hunt them down as animals...please ppl open ur eyes if we go oversees to make humanitarian work lets do it here and take a look of how these ppl and their families live...ring a bell europe world war ii FEAR

    April 25, 2010 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  23. Ryan

    What a dramatic title for something both unsurprising and not that big a deal. By now, every democrat knows better then to count on a republican to actually do any work.

    They'd rather take our tax dollars for profit and sit on thier butts opposing the president at every turn because as always...they're just racists who say anything too look important and pretend to be conervatives.

    April 25, 2010 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  24. Pkm

    when the gop will lose the election in november i will buy kleenex because they will be crying

    April 25, 2010 04:13 am at 4:13 am |
  25. John

    Hey,here's an idea. Let's make sure every lawmaker actually understands what they are voting on before they pass it. How about a test? They have to pass a test on what the bill actually contains prior to voting? I like this idea!

    April 25, 2010 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
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