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)

    Note that rage and violence was perpetrated in Phoenix today by the Tea Partiers! Ooops, I mean by the whacked out loony lib Dem fringe groups!

    Peace loving Tea Partiers only create violence in the drugged up propogandist minds of the state-controlled MSM, as directed by the Obama administration...

    April 24, 2010 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  2. Didi

    Wow! When you include his middle name "Hussein" it makes him so scaaaaary!!! NOT! Get over it. His middle name is Hussein. That's the least of your troubles. If you don't like him, choose a better reason than his name.

    April 24, 2010 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  3. Center left

    I can't wait for the GOP talking points from Frank Luntz. Call it a "Illegal Amnesty Bailout". Yeah! that will scare white folks good.

    April 24, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    So the GOP's old slogan of country first, country first, oops, I mean party first, party first once again raises it's head. Through out his long time in the senate, Graham probably holds the record of being a hypocrite and maybe even the record holder in lies. He really needs to go. He just put saving McCain first over the needs of the country. He also proves that the GOP can not possible be expected of working on two things at once.

    Remember, in NOvemeber, Vote NO to the party of NO.

    April 24, 2010 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  5. digitus

    Good for Graham. How else can the party of NO stand up to the party of STUPID.

    April 24, 2010 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  6. Helen

    What a low life Republican like the rest of them. Hypocrites!! Every single one of them. Just think of themselves and their rich backers. No thought for the country. They utterly digust me!!!

    April 24, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  7. Tim

    What a bunch of balony. No Republicans in Congress plan to lend support to any Democratic and/or administration initiative. This is no surprise to anyone who has followed Congressional (Republican) activity lately. Republicans are the party of obstructionists. If they can't win, they take their ball and go home....and quit....like Sarah Palin. What a bunch of losers – led by the biggest whiner of them all – John McCain. Or is it Glenn Speck....or Rush Limbaugh...or Carl Rowan that "leads" them with self-serving corporate helping propoganda and agenda. This is no surprise. This is the Republican game plan from here on in.

    April 24, 2010 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  8. simplefact

    Bipartisanship is lip service.

    Let's not fool ourselves – until the next election, sock it to the GOP, hard! 🙂

    April 24, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  9. Albo58

    Both Cap&Tax and Amnesty concepts are complete rubbish! The American MAJORITY despise both ideas and anyone that supports these loon ideas should be sent packing from Washington!

    April 24, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  10. Kevin

    when are Democrats going to accept that no Republican is going to cooperate in any way to get legislation through. They will bait and pledge cooperation but in the end they will not deliver, as their end game is purely political to regain power at any cost to America.

    April 24, 2010 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  11. hoosier voter

    I wish the Republican voters would try harder to elect public officials that could do more than one bill at a time....

    It's called multi-tasking and any high schooler or single mom can accomplish it readily!

    {Oh, Noooo...Mr. Bill...
    ....two legislations at once, how will we ever manage it?} 🙂 🙂

    April 24, 2010 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  12. What the Heck?

    This proves what we knew all along, that Graham was never serious about bi-partisan talks. For Graham, everything is a partisan issue and he doesn't care about actually influencing the final legislation.

    April 24, 2010 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  13. Myron

    This is only stunning if CNN has not been following this issue. Graham has been looking for a reason to chuck his involvement in climate change talks for some time now. He initially said he would pull out if the health care bill passed.

    He is not serious about the issue, clearly, or he would not use it as a political football. Those of us who ARE serious know lives are at stake.

    April 24, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  14. Mark in MIami

    Kudos, Sen Graham. OBAMA and the dems are doing their best to screw up this great nation.

    April 24, 2010 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  15. Teckniquez

    So we can't do both a the same time...congress can't chew gum and walk... really

    April 24, 2010 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  16. CSM

    Typical Republican... PRO big business... ANTI environment... what you fail to remember is that everything is inextricably linked. If you Repubs want to politicize the environment, then that is your problem to deal with. It's a tragic move that you would do such a thing. I pity you.

    April 24, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  17. Paul H

    Immigration reform? What's that? It's been more of the same for fifty years or better. Liberal thinking as permeated both parties on this issue. Real America wants boarders protected, and laws enforced. Immigration into this country needs to be by the books, and regulated. Every visitor needs to be accounted for, and work visa's need to be limited. American Citizens need jobs right now. Illegals need to go back home, and go through the process of coming into this country!
    These are very common sense things! Why is it so hard to get these politicians to feel the same?
    Follow the money trails? Who's making, it, and who's saving it?

    April 24, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  18. saftgek

    Anyone surprised at this pre-meditated move is not paying attention to Sen. Graham and the GOP!

    Sen. Graham is one of the most despicable national elected officials in our country, and has been for a very long time.

    When one throws Sen. Graham into the pack with Kyl, Cornyn, Brown (Senate) and Boehner, Waxman, Bachmann, and we have a GOP recipe for obstructionism – at a very high cost to the good people of the U.S.A.

    Climate change and immigration have absolutely NOTHING to do with each other, and Sen. Graham knows it. This is nothing more than a flimsy excuse to say "Screw The County and its People – We're Going After Obama!"

    Case Closed!

    April 24, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  19. Paul H

    Oh, and Global Warming is the biggest scam in this century.

    April 24, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  20. Jon

    Oh well, I guess the Obamabots will have to depend on those rhinos from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, who long ago forgot which side they were on.

    April 24, 2010 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  21. Bill F

    It's about time that Graham sees through Obama's phony tactics. He has repeatedly lied to the American people. He will, and has said anything to anybody just to get elected. Now he is trying to coddle the American people just so that he can ram rod his personal socialist agenda down our throats. America had better wake up to his socialist agenda before we find ourselves on a the trecherous slippery slope that he is putting us on.

    Ther is absolutely nothing that is bipartisan about his administration! This is the worst president ever elected by the American people. What a mistake that was!!! The communist have always said that they would defeat us within and now we are seeing what they meant by that.

    April 24, 2010 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  22. all of america

    Good for senator Grahm. All of obamas scocialistic agendas need to be stopped in their tracks . obama has done enough damage to the united states with his scocial agendas, obama care,taxes, taxes, taxes, taking control of everything in the country , castrobama, needs to get the boot now!

    April 24, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  23. The Other Campaign Strategist @115th and Amsterdam Ave

    This is really unfortunate for Lindsey Graham.

    He could have been an example of how Washington works instead of how it does not. I hope he comes back to the table before the damage is done to his image. It would be ashame.

    This is not a threat ... it is inevitable that he and his constituents will suffer on the National stage if he comes off as combative.

    April 24, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  24. Morgan

    I keep wanting to like poor Lindsey, but he is a ridiculous man in a ridiculous state. I remember his efforts to derail the Executive Branch over the Clinton scandal and his campaigning for the "mavierick" from Arizona and the silly Alaskan. I believe the Senator from the Confederacy has had his turn and should move on.

    April 24, 2010 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  25. scott

    I would sell my soul to be around when South Carolina is inundated by the Atlantic Ocean. Not a big loss really but just would like to witness it for my own satisfaction.

    April 24, 2010 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
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