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. Anonymous

    Graham abandoning talks on climate change...why am I not surprised? Does this inept Senator not now that he should at least try to take care of one problem before inserting another? Dah...typical Republican. Immigration is a totally different issue...deal with it when the time comes. Moving forward on any issue with the republicans/conservatives is a total joke, a bad joke, but a joke none the less. Get on board Graham....solve one issue at a time. Your excuse for abandoning this issue is lame.

    April 24, 2010 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  2. evensteven

    Take your ball and go home, cry-baby.

    April 24, 2010 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  3. Babylove

    I am glad that the President continues to address the needs of the nation and international community despite these immature political games the GOP continues to play. Lindsay Graham is trying to save face and get back into the rank and files of the republican party after being knocked around this week with frivilous scandals. It's a shame the GOP is behaving so hostile towards its own members, but it's even more pathetic for these members to continue to run with the GOPs undiligent behavior in doing their jobs.

    If I were to fold my arms and refuse to talk to my ranking superiors I'd be fired. He should be too. The way these guys are behaving is beyond disgusting. I've never seen such unpatriotic behavior by elected officials inthis country in my life.

    April 24, 2010 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  4. Bandit24

    Grahamnesty, What's wrong . Feeling a little heat huh? Come election day a whole lot of you are going to feel the heat. Arizonia has started a true immigration reform. Now watch it spread like welfare. The free ride on illegal immigration is over.

    April 24, 2010 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  5. Darrell

    Classic Move: Republicans yell & scream about States Rights under the 10th amendment in the US Constitution. Yesterday, the AZ Governor, who is a Republican, signs a new immigration law which directly violates the 10th amendment. A remedial course in high social studies should help the AZ Gov. understand that the fed. government has constitutional jurisdiction over immigration law. Idiot!

    April 24, 2010 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  6. pat

    Graham can't stand the heat from his fellow Republicans. I thought it was admirable that he was going to stand alone for bipartisanship and because he believes the important thing is doing the right thing for our country and not politics....but I was mistaken. He is still a politician.

    April 24, 2010 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  7. yesican

    What ever happened to growing jobs? So now we have to deal with Financial Reform (before the congressional panel has had a chance to finish their investigation), Cap and Trade (Energy Tax) Legislation and now the Democrats also want to include Immigration Reform????

    What is the hurry to pass these very important and difficult pieces of legislation in a whrilwind 3-4 month timeframe??

    Remember how long Health Care was debated? Do you morons think we can get 3 major pieces of legislation in one session of a deeply devide Congress.LOL

    April 24, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  8. Tim Kelly

    So now the opposition is down to using blackmail to try to get what they want. What a sad state of affairs when they can't put the good of the planet, let alone the people, before saving thier buddies who are the ones hiring the illegals in the first place. Everything with them is just leave it as is while we talk about leaving as it is.

    April 24, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  9. Joe

    This bumpkin is as dumb as Palin, M. Sanford, Limbaugh el al

    April 24, 2010 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  10. Borderlands

    Immigration reform needs to wait? We have 11-12 million illegal aliens in the United States that are sucking the life out of our health care, education, and other social programs. US citizens pay the Mexican drug cartels over $10B per year. Our southern border is being occupied by Mexican nationals...including the ridge lines and tops of mountain ranges extending at least 60 miles into the United States. How about we get our own house in order before we start worrying about the rest of the world?

    April 24, 2010 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  11. jim atmadison

    Gee, a Republican puts political grandstanding above the needs of the nation. What's the probability of that happening? Oh, yeah. 100%.

    April 24, 2010 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  12. markiejoe

    Gee, what a surprise. Graham caved in to The Party of NO!

    April 24, 2010 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  13. Fed Up

    No, it couldn't be a political ploy! Neither party would ever do that in an election year. They are fine, upstnading, honest people. Yeah, right! Vote 'em in. Vote'em out.

    April 24, 2010 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  14. Paul Ernest Show

    President Obama was elected president, to lead the nation, and he must move boldly and decisively, to lead, with or without Republicans support. America cannot wait on Republicans to be on board, for it to tackle its most essential and demanding issues. We do not have a parliamentary system of government, where you need a coalition government to get things done. I think the Republicans have been given too much undeserved due. Democrats do not owe them any bi-partisanship.

    April 24, 2010 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  15. Robert

    Blah Blah Blah... Another Republican playing politics...

    They have no shame.

    April 24, 2010 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  16. wha? in pa

    OK. So because he doesn't like some other legislation he's not going to focus on the task at hand? Wha? Fruitcake.

    April 24, 2010 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  17. Carolyn in Austin

    Seems to me both of these matters are highly in need of being addressed and people's lives are at stake in both cases.

    Why can' the work Sen Graham did in 2007 be incorporated into a bill to be presented in 3 weeks AND the work on climate change legislation also be unveiled?

    This reaction seems drastic and contrived to me.

    April 24, 2010 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  18. AG

    L live in SC and I think Graham is feeling pressure from the Republicans in the state. He is a little worried about losing his next election. Added to the accusations that he is not a REAL Republican are also questions about his being gay. I think the hypocrite is looking out for his own political skin.

    April 24, 2010 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  19. Why??

    The Republicans just want to block anything that Obama wants to do because they're still angry that they lost the election. Then they'll say that he didn't do anything he promised while President! The people of this nation voted for a change, and for the Republicans to block those changes because they want to retain their nostalgic ways is wrong in my opinion. We were tired of failed policies and voted for someone who was promising to introduce big changes to government and now you're blocking the will of the voters. Everyone can say that some biased polls and a few hundred angry protestors means that the people didn't want healthcare reform, but we know that's wrong because we elected a man who campaigned on healthcare reform! We basically had a chance to use the popular vote to decide whether or not we wanted healthcare reform and we chose that person democratically. And if some changed their minds later, it was probably because of the lies and fear-inducing propaganda, like supposed "death panels", that makes them think this way and not the facts of the bill.

    April 24, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  20. AZSenior

    Immigration is important; Global warming is important; Lindsey Graham, is a Bozo, and the world knows it! He is so smug and so autocratic, it's disgusting. The good news is that the young people today are starting be truly informed (thanks to the Internet), and truly engaged; politicians like Lindsey Graham have a very short shelf life, thank God.

    April 24, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  21. Shawn in MN

    This is getting really sickening. "I'm not going to do anything with anything else because I'm not getting my way"

    The republican senators and reps. are acting like little children throwing a tantrums.

    Seriously what the heck is more important than the planet we live on. We don't have anything if we don't have that.

    I cannot wait for the November elections to get rid of more or these bozos.

    April 24, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  22. Jay

    Lindsey, grow up and think for yourself.

    April 24, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  23. James

    A while back (healthcare reform to be exact) I let go of my Democrat roots and decided I did not know which way to lean Independent or Republican. With this move it shows me why republicans had Bush in for 2 terms and why I made a mistake on voting for Obama. THEY GET IT.....The republicans actually get what real Americans around the country want. We gave them 2 terms and that was it. I wished now we would have given them more time. I apologize to my fellow Americans for voting the Democratic quacks in. They have done everything to rush all this garbage into law and when it is all done our heads will be spinning and we will have lost our rights as Americans. That is not ok with me and I just hope we can elect the Republicans back into Office to help us fix our America I helped screw up by voting for this nut.

    Again I apologize
    Ex-Democrat/New Republican

    April 24, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  24. GOPer

    That's it, I'm taking my marbles and going home.

    What a Punk

    April 24, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  25. cryUncle

    Why would he scrap something he's been working on with the other side of the aisle? It's evident what kind of priorities he has. "Party First – Needs of the Nation Second" What a statesman!!

    April 24, 2010 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
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