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. pkb

    According to the right leaning CNN, everything that happens to the Demos is a "major blow". Baloney! Don't think for a second one Republican flip flop is a blow to Pres Obama.

    April 24, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  2. DB

    Frankly I'm furious of all these immature democrat/republican political games while we all complacently sit here on a perilous path to our own destruction. The best CNN can do is act like MTV and bring to light all of the drama going on rather than host some intelligent discussion on these matters. I don't know what's worse – the masses of brain-dead individuals in this country that tolerate this kind of nonsense or the consolidated mindless media that manufactures and feeds this garbage to the nation's citizens.

    April 24, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  3. DM

    The immigration issue is far too controversial and important to simply ram through Congress. Of course this is what Democrats want to do so they can keep their jobs come election time. Don't buy into the "if you don't support mass amnesty you're a racist" trap, people that say that have clearly lost touch with reality. Its time for America to get its balls back and stop bowing down to anyone who isn't white for fear of being called a racist.

    April 24, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  4. Sam Smith

    Obama and the Dems move like the night – whoosh, whoosh and they are right behind you. If you can't keep up you should get out of the busniess, Gramps, along with the rest the southern-drawling, tobacco-spitting, slavery-condoning, wife-cheating self-proclaimed "Conservatives". This is the 21th century, and you guys are stuck way, way back (my favorite: "The internet is a series of tubes..." by fomer Senator and conviced felon Ted Stevens)!

    April 24, 2010 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  5. Dee

    Who cares about the Republicans. They are the party of nothing.

    April 24, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  6. Sick Of Politics

    So, nobody in Congress can actually work on more than 1 thing at a time? The GOP needs to grow up. The American people are sick and tired of the political quibbling going on and wasting the taxpayers time and money on things like Steroids in Baseball. Can't anybody in Congress do the job they were voted in to do. Start solving problems in this country before we become a province of China.

    April 24, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  7. Ergee

    I'm all about finding alternative forms of energy, but tying the mine and off shore rig explosions to the "supposed" warming of the planet is quite a stretch. We will be depending on fossil fuels for at least the next ten years. Has anybody been watching the news and climategate for the past 4 months. The more true scientific research that is done, the more likely it is that humans have less of an impact than initial assessments that were inflated by bogus science.

    April 24, 2010 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  8. Larry

    Graham, you're an idiot. And your moronic souther twang gets on my nerves.

    Go ahead an abandon climate change legislation for your stupid political purposes.

    You have to live on this planet too, as does your family and their future generations.

    April 24, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  9. Chris B.

    Someone must have informed Senator Graham that he was thinking outside the box, showing bipartisanship and putting the good of the planet ahead of political gain, all of which violates Republican ideology. Graham was going be shipped to Siberia for 'reeducation' until he saw the light and decided to rejoin his comrades in the rank and file conservative herd. Either that or the immature, elementary school tactic of implying that he was gay and being blackmailed by Democrats to cooperate with them actually worked.

    April 24, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  10. earl fey

    I misspoke-the comment should have neen can't henot say NO to more than one thing at a time.

    April 24, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  11. Texas Liberal

    Sigh, once again, the Republicants say no to everything. Their constituents will eventually realize that they've elected a bunch of clowns who do nothing but oppose the good ideas and fail to produce any ideas of their own.

    April 24, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  12. Ron

    My, this news on top of the recent GOP law in Arizona to Nazify the state. I sure wish that the GOP could be more subtle with their plans. First their going to roust anyone in Arizona that is even slightly dark so watch out you tanning freaks and then they are going to try and stop legislation on climate control. Well, I thought they didn't believe in global warming. Oh, this falls into the birth certificate, death panel, we had nothing to do with the deficits items that they have issues with.

    April 24, 2010 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  13. WisconsinEric

    Party of No does it again. They are really out of touch with reality.

    April 24, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  14. Gamedad

    Republicans goose-stepping in line, this is news?

    April 24, 2010 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  15. Rod from Indy

    Arizona. that great looneytoon land of GOP, forced the hand here. This quitting by Graham is just another cheap trick by the GOP in a neverending parade of cheap tricks to do anything to stall the president's agenda. And as much as President Obama has tackled in his first year, TOTUS has the nerve to imply he's goofing off!!! I suggest we send Kleenex to all Repugs so they can have their one big cry. Your agenda was atrocious and almost ruined this country. We have a new start in a fresh direction, and the weather's fine here.

    April 24, 2010 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  16. Jim,Virginia

    Why doesn't O'bama worry about fixing the unemployment problem in this country first?I think he must have gotten into some bad weed or something because he's got his priorities all wrong !! Maybe Mr. Graham is right in not working on the climate bill since O'bama seems to be blowing a lot of hot air.

    April 24, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  17. Paul

    Yep. The GOP is moving further in further in lockstep to obstruct the Democrats for the sake of our party.

    The more united the GOP is, the more America falters. They keep shouting "remember November", and I suggest we ALL remember during EVERY election which of our elected officials pull up their sleeves and work and which sit there and do nothing.

    April 24, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  18. Dave

    Unless the mexicans are responsible for climate change, I am not sure why he would link the two together. Oh yeah, now I remember. The goal is to say "NO" to everything.

    April 24, 2010 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  19. Ramon

    What the big deal? Can't republicans work on more than one issue? That why nothing get done.

    April 24, 2010 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  20. Becky

    Who cares if Lindsay Graham pulls out of climate talks since he was the only member of the GOP involved? The GOP is, more and more, becoming just a hate group whose main goal is to ruin Obama's presidency, so this more of the same old garbage from them. Who cares, by the way, if the president plays golf instead of hanging out and hunting and walking around his ranch in TX.

    April 24, 2010 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  21. Nat, NYC

    Firs of all Global Warming is a Myth. Finally, Senator Graham showed that he has a backbone.

    April 24, 2010 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  22. scott

    ............and the Democrats blamed Bush for rushing to war.....Obama rushes everything before it can be fully vetted and understood. Seems to me the Democrats again have a double standard.

    April 24, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  23. Dave

    President Bush took more in-office vacation than any other president in history. Look it up you fool.

    April 24, 2010 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  24. Mickey, NY

    What is it with these idiots...nothing but obstructionism from these domestic terrorists...the GOP is writing their own epitaph.

    And then there are the morons that have their heads so far up Limbaugh and Beck's rectum that think Obama is out playing golf, as if they think it will make George Bush look better by trying to deflect the fact that BushCo. is to blame for the situation we are in now...face the facts. At least Obama is trying to fix the mess. But as the old saying goes, Obama can (and will) fix a lot of things, but you can't fix stupid!

    April 24, 2010 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  25. honestmistake

    What happened to the laser focus on jobs?

    April 24, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
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