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. Donald, North Carolina

    To all the Lindsey Graham's, Joe Leiberman, Mitch McConnell and all others -SHUT THE HELL UP, GET OFF YOUR SOAP BOX, AND GET'R DONE!!!

    The American people are tired of all the BS,lies, and inaction coming from both Houses of Congress!!!

    Work together and get the problems of this country solved or GO HOME!!! We don't need your type and this country has suffered enough under your incompetence, narcisstic attitude, lying, and unprofessional conduct!!!

    April 24, 2010 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  2. Minnesotan

    Ah, Lindsey, Lindsey, Lindsey..... you're just another closeted homosexual who sides with the Party of No to try to score political points. Too bad the GOP can't see that they're no longer relevant, or even sane.

    April 24, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  3. robert

    throw them all out !! Including all th mexican drug cartell people they have over here not to mention the Jackson and Josephine county jails in so ore are 70-80% illegals all in jail for drug dealing and gang activities.

    Its the only solution... Throw them all out and do it now before its too late.

    we need a new president and a new congress....

    Stahlin and Mao would be real proud of the Demo-pukes right now and all their efforts to turn America into a Marxist Stahlinist utopia....

    April 24, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  4. CR

    Holding hostage the air, water, and life on earth... He really doesn't care...

    April 24, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  5. Mike

    Graham has real problems to his right. If he was running this year he to would have to answer to a further right wing candidate like Hayworth. Expect he will either not seek re-election or will become an arch conservative to prevent a challenge. What ever the club for growth wants Lindsey will deliver.

    April 24, 2010 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. meeinpsl

    CNN needs to change the headline to: Graham confirms he is a member of the PARTY OF NO and moves to imperil Obama's agenda by confirming he will no longer be working in a bi-partisan manner on legistration that he has already negotiated and worked across the aisle to consensus now that it will be coming up for a vote and getting press coverage ahead of the November elections.

    When someone from the PARTY OF NO actually grows a pair and decides to do what the people elected them to do instead of being racist, disgusting obstacles to getting something done – that will be news.

    April 24, 2010 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  7. Steven L. Rowe

    The Democrats are desperately trying to scoop up voters before November, and what better way than trying to pass amnesty for millions of illegals and thereby impressing Latinos.

    April 24, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. Peter E

    Graham is basically trying to delay immigration debate, realizing that it would bring McCain's co-authorship, and several republicans' former support of a controversial 'guest worker' program, along with path to citizenship to ILLEGAL immigrants to spotlight. (luckily the bill failed in 2005) And conservative voters might realize how hypocritic republicans have been accusing democrats of coddling illegals, when it was THEY who proposed and supported a bill that would have given them amnesty!

    April 24, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  9. Jim Bob

    Another Republican shows his feet of clay.

    April 24, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  10. ron

    Didn't th republicans try the same old trick during the healthcare dedate...act as though you're trying to work on the bill, then drop out pretending the democrats are doing something wrong??? We're wise to that old plan senator. Now, go do your job for the American people and stop the BS.

    April 24, 2010 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  11. The Film Professor

    Gee, one might think the Rethugs are once again succeeding at being the party of NO. I guess I should be amazed that Graham was ever willing to even admit that there is an issue with climate change, and startled that he was ever willing to try and discuss the issue. Most Rethugs just want to pretend that it doesn't even exist despite the overwhelming evidence.

    And I'm laughing that TOTUS would diss Obama for playing golf; how on earth does that compare to all of the months that Bush spent cutting brush and fishing in Crawford?

    April 24, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  12. Johnnyboy

    Immigration reform is a problem with many years in the waiting. Stop putting it on hold.

    April 24, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  13. Robert Collins

    Old news from the party of NO.

    April 24, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. luana

    we are tired of living in this country locked in the house without freedom of expression working like slaves without the right to visit our families, sometimes we lose a member of our family and we do not have the right to see them because we can not leave this country because if we live we can not came back, we have to live like rats leaving to the house just when we think are safe. The president has to look at our lives here we are human and deserve the same rights as the rest, we have feelings and suffer a lot living here without our families and being treated like garbage. We want this reform now yesterday!

    April 24, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Yes, lets deal with immigration right now and pass cap and trade right now so the world as we know it will not end next week. In fact, lets deal with anything but the economy and jobs.

    April 24, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. Ang

    How in the world can you say immigration should wait, when families are being pulled apart In Arizona and all over America. As i see it, is immigrates bring money into the economy, buy houses, do the hard work for nothing, and is able to live in the same home and get along. Let start Immigration Reform Now, that way we can see who wants to help bring change!!!!

    April 24, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  17. ScottyD

    This a surprise? How many Republicans have actually put the country first before their own individual agenda (that being to derail everything the current President puts forth). At least we have a leader in the White House that has a mind to move American forward unlike his predicessor.

    April 24, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  18. ATC333

    Considering the fact that Arizona has now acted on its own because the Federal Government and the last Administration have done nothing to correct the problem, it appears that the GOP has once again taken action to avoid a serious problem facing this country to be properly dealt with. Just one more attempt to keep its members in line, and fully live up to its new, offical name, "The Party of NO!!". After all, the less the current adminsitration accomplishes, the better its chances in the next election.

    April 24, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Diane

    Big surprise! He gave in to the pressure and the threats from the right wing that they were going to out him for being gay. If he had any real courage, he would call their bluff and continue to work on the legislation. Very sad that our country has come to this!

    April 24, 2010 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  20. Steve from California

    No immigration reform is needed. What"s needed is a strict enforcement of the law. If Bush and Obama had done so there would be no need for Arizona's new law. Illegal aliens must go.

    April 24, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  21. Jason

    Sen Graham the knee jerk reaction and the cramming down our throats the UN-Patriot Act was bypassing the process?

    Another in the party of NO!!

    No more breathing either if the GOP gets their way.. They had 20 of the last 29 years in control, and have done NOTHING to make America safer. More prosperous and more independent.. Reaganomics killed the middle class..

    Immigration reform FIRST!! My home state Arizona had the balls to do what the GOP and most of America can't!! Republicants do NOT care about middle America or for that matter, western America, Eastern America or Northern America.. They only care about middle or bible belt America!

    April 24, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    More repo tricks and lies. Do you really think he just suddenly changed his mind. Im sure this has been in the works to try and embarrase the president. Get rid of him and all the right wing nut jobs.

    April 24, 2010 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  23. Jason

    Both issues need to be tackled, but I suspect that the Democrats can't be trusted with either. We do need climate change legislation, but that legislation can't handicap American industry. Cap and Trade should be called crap and trade. There is no such thing as One world and there should never be. American morals are not shared with most of the world. Even the reduced morals of the Democrats are probably better than that of Russia, China the entire middle east and all of Africa. Immigration reform has to start with being in this country illegally is a CRIME. If caught you should be deported. All a hearing would need to determine is if you are or are not here illegally. If you are, good bye. We need a big, tall, deep fence and lots of boarder patrol. Legal immigration is good for the country. Coming across the Rio Grand isn't. I don't understand the current discussion. This is all a no-brainer.

    April 24, 2010 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. key

    Gees 27 world leaders respect the President but 41 US Senators thinks he not suited to lead. I think its harder to have world leaders respect myself.

    April 24, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  25. Chris

    Big deal, he bowed under political pressure from his party–just like Stupak did.

    April 24, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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