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. Mike

    Can bam explain what part of ILLEGAL he doesn't understand? Is he crying in his beer from the beer summit that Arizona did a full court press on the ILLEGALs?

    Most Americans have no problem with immigration, AS LONG AS IT IS DONE LEGALLY! Why should the ILLEGALS get it easy? To any of the Communist News Network....did any of YOUR ancestors get it easy when they came to the USA as immigrants? Did they sneak across the border as wet backs, or did they do it legally? Oh, they did it legally. So why shouldn't EVERYONE do it the same way?

    Find the ILLEGALS and send them back! If they choose to come back LEGALLY, then the additional fee that they will have to pay is for the cost of deporting them!

    April 24, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  2. George G

    I can’t believe that people are upset about aliens having to carry documents to prove their in the country legally. Try going to Europe without a passport and march in the streets about the right to be there without documentation. I was under the impression that Roland Regan settled the matter of immigration way back when. If it was right then, why are we confronted with it now? So now with everything else going on it’s dropped in Obama’s lap. The question is, should the illegal aliens be marching in America making demands of the U.S. government or in Mexico making demands on its own government for better living conditions there? After being attacked Bush should have sealed off both borders and sorted this matter out. In case it’s been forgotten, government has a duty to its citizens to enforce the law of the land regardless of how unpopular it may be

    April 24, 2010 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  3. Larry

    As if he ever really wanted to help anyway

    These Republicans sure do like putting themselves in the media limelight

    The Party Of NO ,,,Good

    April 24, 2010 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  4. cassamandra

    odd that this about-face comes a few days after some creep brought up Graham's sexuality and wondered aloud whether he was being blackmailed... I guess now we know who the real blackmailers are. This is quite sad.

    April 24, 2010 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  5. Bigiman

    Go Republicans. David Carville was right! The dems will rule for 40 years! Minorities will more likely vote democratic the coming years. And their becoming the majority soooooooooooooooon.

    April 24, 2010 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  6. DrZ

    Republicans give it to their friends
    Democrats give it to people who don't want to work

    We should stop giving to friends and give shock treatment to the lazy.

    April 24, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  7. FL

    The democrats are in a big hurry to push as much crap through before they are out of office. They need to stop with their agenda now. oboma wants to make as many illegals citizens as possible so they will vote for him. He wants to control the market place to control the citizens. He makes up one crisis after another ( GLOBAL WARMING, pig flu, medical system failure) The only t ing he succeeded in doing was to divide this nation and hurt our economy. The real fools are the ones that do not see him for what he is.

    April 24, 2010 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  8. suresh

    The Republican right wing and the Tea Party folks have been successful in scaring Sen. Graham to stop working with Democrats. The goal of these radical elements of GOP is to prevent Obama to enact any legislature thus showing to American people that he is a failed President. However, American public is smart enough to know this and come November, they will show their disapproval of these tactics.

    Another example of this scare tactic is Sen. McCain has now come out and said that he is not a " Maverick" but a partisan Republican. It is sad to see a war hero who was not scared to everything thrown at him by Vietcong in his 5 years of captivity is scared of these radicals. It is indeed a shame and a bad development that will definitely hurt our Democracy. I think it is all about having a Black man in the white house. So we did not really moved on after the 2008 election. The racism is coming out in the form of Tea Parties.

    April 24, 2010 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  9. nathan

    I guess Graham was told to get with the Republican program or else

    April 24, 2010 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  10. usualone

    To date, it doesn't look like any Republican will truly work with the Democrats on any issue. They may pretend to do so, but they will not try to work with the other party, even if some of their desires are reflected in some bills. Who will be really brave to work in a non-partisan way? From what I have observed of this guy, he has always been anti the other party. It was surprising to know he had even been in talk with Democrats - one could never take that seriously.

    April 24, 2010 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  11. Seattle Girl

    WOW! What a total moron Lindsey Graham guy is, well, he and the rest of the Republican Party. A bunch of grown men acting like 3 year olds. Very, very mature. How about you grow up and do the job you were sent to Washington to do?????

    April 24, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  12. canyongirl

    Priority should be jobs, home grown terrorism, economy, gov't. corruption, defending our borders. We have some real problems in this country
    Then again, climate change means to me, spring, summer, winter, fall.

    April 24, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  13. JohnRJ08

    And, of course, Graham's statement is not a "cynical political ploy".

    These Republicans are so panicked that they don't know who they are anymore.

    April 24, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  14. marty43

    Another example of "The Party of No" !

    April 24, 2010 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  15. michaelam

    Hmmm....looks like members of the American Taliban (Republicans, for those that need a clue) paid Sen. Graham a visit. Or, perhaps their
    de facto leader, El Rushbo called him and reminded him about wanting President Obama to fail. Regardless, so much for bi-partisanship and country first!

    April 24, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  16. CS in Rosslyn VA

    Seems like it was not a question of "if" but "when" – probably taking too much heat at home from the party power center – the "cynical ploy" remark was merely personal topcover for his retreat from cooperation.

    Too bad – but not unexpected. Makes you wonder what "Country First" really means to some people.....

    April 24, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  17. Jim

    A republican senator going against Obama? Shocking, I tell ya, shocking!

    April 24, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  18. annie s

    Every move any Republican makes is orchestrated to make the President look bad. My only complaint with the Dems is that they play too nice – stop coddling these do nothing Republicans and get done what we elected for,.

    April 24, 2010 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Gee, what a surprise a republican senator can't walk and chew gum at the same time. No wonder nothing gets done with the republicans. Their legislative agenda goes at a snail's pace.

    We have elected a president that is disrupting their pace and wants to get things done. They just don't get it. America is tired of the waiting game.

    We're with you President Obama.

    April 24, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  20. annie s

    Bad, bad Democrats – imagine the Majority Party having the nerve to set the agenda!

    April 24, 2010 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  21. Denna

    You know, I'm not one to hate anyone, but I am seriously starting to hate the Rethuglicans. They are so anxious to poke President Obama in the eye with a sharp stick that they REFUSE to do anything for America. Anything!!!!! What is wrong with you people???!!!

    April 24, 2010 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  22. Limnologym

    Pathetic, Mr. Graham. Caved under pressure from your fellow Republicans, yes? So much for thoughtful independence! Nick has it right.

    April 24, 2010 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  23. BradKT

    More rope-a-dope from the Republicans. Immigration reform has nothing to do with climate change. Obviously, Senator Graham was feeling the heat from conservatives, so he cut and ran.

    Now he is trying a cynical ploy...telling supporters of climate change legislation that he "can't" support it because the Obama Administration is going to move on immigration reform as well?

    What's next...he can't do financial reform because the Obama Administration was moving forward on climate change?

    Then again, maybe Senator Graham can't multi-task. One has nothing to do with the other.

    April 24, 2010 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  24. michael

    well, the GOP vowed to bitterly oppose any sort of reform Obama plans to put forward, those coorporate tyrants Republicans simply want to regain power. Immigration can wait until climate change and green energy are addressed. The republicans sure are experts at political ploys, all their statements are flat out lies yet they get away with it

    April 24, 2010 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  25. Bob in SC

    Just when I thought there was a chance for some bipartisanship. Lindsay, you truly disappoint me. The real pity is that the whole Gang of Three is getting away with their intimidation tactics. Not one GOPer has the guts to stand up to their crap.

    April 24, 2010 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
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