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. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Yes immigration reform needs to wait. Global Warming / Green Energy needs to be the #1 priority. After 50 guys just got killed in the coal mine and offshore oil rig explosions within the past few weeks alone...what other proof do the Neo-Confed's need that we need to shift our energy focus to safer, greener alternatives?

    April 24, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  2. art in kingwood

    Maybe the headline would be more correct if it read " Graham move imperils Obama and CNN agenda"

    April 24, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. TM

    So it's a "cynical political ploy" Senator? Well, you and your party would be the EXPERTS on identifying that wouldn't you?

    April 24, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Arizona will deal a "blow" to John McCain, he knows it and so does Graham. This is the exact same thing McConnel, Cornlyn and te GOP attempted during the President's Wall Street refom and that backfired. The GOP are always ready to run home with their "toys" when they can't win.

    April 24, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. Brian C

    Gee, what a surprise, a member of the GOP coming out and saying they aren't going to cooperate with the Dems or Obama on legislation. I got an idea to save everybody time and effort, how about just reporting on when the GOP actually does show some cooperation or new ideas. Now that would be news.

    April 24, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. Nick

    I guess he bowed under the pressure of his fellow neo-nazis.

    So much for bi-partisanship....for these Republicans, it's their way or no-way – until America is under the leadership of Enron, Halliburton and Blackwater.

    April 24, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. Greg in Denver

    What does one have to do with the other? Because he doesn't like the administration's approach on immigration reform, global warming no longer matters?

    The truth is that he started getting too much heat from the right wing nuts of his party and he's using this as an excuse to not cooperate with the Democrtats on ANYTHING!

    As long as Republicans continue to put the interest of their party ahead of the interests of our country, we need to vote them OUT of office. They're pathetic.

    April 24, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  8. Peter

    yeah sure Here we go again with Republicans playing games with our immigration problem we have approx 23million illegals in here and we ought to wait to pass comprehensive laws??? when lindsey when are gonna have have comprehensive laws passed? while keep stalling? so we can double the number of illegals to 46 million??? or is this stalling in response to protecting big business Republican donors from potential crack down??? why is the Republican party so bad for America??? every thing they do and say is selfish and never good for America....the people who need to be dealt with are American employers who hire illegals to undercut American wages...when we put them on tv and in jail the immigration problem will be half solved....

    April 24, 2010 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  9. Chris from San Antonio

    Wait, a republican refuses to cooperate with the Democrats? Stunned, I tell you. Stunned.

    April 24, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  10. Texas Granny

    Fine– let Senator NO bail out. Move on without him. I am sick to death of the attitude of the GOP anymore.. "if we don't get OUR way, we're going to block EVERYthing". Guess they're more interested in getting their own way than in doing what might be in the best interest of the people in this country. This is one of the reasons I left the Republican party after almost 40 years of active participation. I am fed up with the holier-than-thou attitude of the GOP.

    There has not been one single thing the Republicans have been willing to work on together.... it's either their way or the highway as far as they're concerned.

    April 24, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. Jeff

    In other words:

    No No No No No No
    Obstruct Obstruct Obstruct Obstruct
    Status Quo Status Quo Status Quo Status Quo
    Do nothing do nothing do nothing do nothing

    This is the Republican party. Nothing new here.

    April 24, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  12. Liberal4Obama

    Graham is a clown he is finding any excuse so he can to vote with the extreme right wing of his party.

    April 24, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  13. rawley

    Arizona tells us how to handle immigration. Tell Obama to get his -ss busy and blame GWB on this also. You dumb liberals

    April 24, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  14. Brad Hurt

    I feel so sorry for these right republicans who can't think for them selves all they do is cry and whine.

    April 24, 2010 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. 8 Years of the Bush Error = Recession and Record Unemployment for ? Years.

    Graham has definitely had a "close" relationship with McCain for years. A couple of time during the campaign these two were together while Cindy was dutifully walking 3 paces behind, just like a good little republican Stepford wife.

    In fact, the only thing surprising is Graham coming up for air long enough to deflect the immigration argument to protect McCain, and taking time away from his usual activity.

    April 24, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    This is the problem with our legislators. We need to tackle both immigration and climate change. If Senator Graham has been working on a climate bill and feels like it's progressing, why throw it out because the administration also wants to take on immigration. Him doing so is a political ploy in and of itself....

    April 24, 2010 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  17. Gpenn

    Does anyone really believe he was going to support climate change bills that would include cap and trade? He was never going to go ahead with this and now he has an excuse not to.

    April 24, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  18. Valerie Jay

    Just when I thought Senator Graham was finally taking off his Republican shirt and putting on his American shirt, this leader of the party of "No" shows exactly where every Republican stands - against anything that will help the country, help the President or make things better. The once-proud Republican party has indeed hit bottom!!!

    April 24, 2010 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. ib

    You liberals need to WAKE UP; this is the last thing this country needs right now. People can't afford any new taxes and that's all you Obama fans can think about. Global warming; if it is so real why is Obama jumping on AF1 everyday instead of staying in DC? His carbon foot print is bigger than Gore's and both are hyprocrites when it comes to this.

    April 24, 2010 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  20. Paul Cooper

    It would appear that some of us believe that the Republicans are honor bound to work with the Democrats on whatever legislation the Democrats wish to move, just because the Democrats hold the majority.

    Will you believe that next January if the Democrats lose their majorities? Or will it suddenly be once-again fashionable for the minority party to say the majority is not operating in good faith?

    Lindsey Graham is right about the rush to pass an immigration bill in time to stroke the Hispanic vote, and if the best tool he has to bring this up is to stop playing village idiot on Climate Change, so much the better.

    April 24, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  21. hufflepuff

    Grahams reaction "in this hurried, panicked manner – is nothing more than a cynical political ploy[.]"

    For this Senator to hold up legislation that affects the entire world now and forever as a statement against his 'feelings' on immigration reform is childish. This is the action of a 4 year-old not getting everything his own way.

    It is time for the Dems to step up, get fierce and get on with business in a manner that proves this action is unacceptable.

    April 24, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  22. Peter E

    So... according to a die-hard, extreme right republican climate change (which they deny even exists) is more urgent issue than immigration issues (which they've contended had to be fixed for the entire past decade). And he says he'll abandon all talks on either issue because that'll help with that urgency? Bravo!

    April 24, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. Mike S. New Orleans

    Now there's a shocker. A Republican blocking, saying no, offering no solution, threatening to filibuster, refusing to cooperate, pouting, harping, and whining.

    Keep the progress going Dems. You've done a good job of starting to clean up the mess Bush left us.

    April 24, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. phoenix86

    Thank you Senator. Obama's agenda is another political play without thought or consideration of either US citizens nor the US Constitution.

    Republicans are continually demonized by the fringe left and their unthinking liberal followers.

    April 24, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  25. Limbaugh is a Liberal

    Did William Gheen's accusations of Lindsey Graham being gay really hit a nerve? Or something else?

    April 24, 2010 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
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