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. Dean

    And we need to do whatever is possible to derail the Obama agenda before he destroys what little is left of America.
    And why doesn't he work on getting some jobs back? Maybe because he knows that he can't.

    April 24, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  2. Greg in Tampa

    The real mystery was why Sen Graham was attempting political suicide by working on a climate change bill with Sen Kerry in the 1st place. Climate change science has proven to be a scam and green energy and green jobs a pipe dream with the current technology. WIth the current administration trying to move to the left of Cuba and Venezuala, the midterms can't get here fast enough! The Obama experiment can then be restrained until he is shown the door in 2012.

    April 24, 2010 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  3. Johnnie T Martin

    Graham,did not surprise anyone. He and McCain are both running scared. They have sacrificed all of their integrity to try to win re-election, It is shameful.
    I truly loath the tea party and anyone running to please them. But these two guys were decent human beings and I don't see them as such anymore.

    April 24, 2010 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  4. Ronnie from New Orleans,La

    Waaaa,Waaa, Same old Repub stuff, running away because things are not going there way, all or nothing attitude, what a pathetic piece of crap this Senator Graham is, he represents his party well, a bunch of cowards,

    April 24, 2010 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  5. dixie

    Graham is no better than Sanford. Both are an embarrassment to S.C.

    April 24, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  6. No Rainbow Here

    When it is 120 degrees in AZ, TX, and all the southern GOP states who think climate change is some kind of joke, or that by some miracle it can be reversed by Mitt Romney......................... I hope they remember who it was who refused to acknowledge, refused to negotiate, refused to talk, and refused to do anything about climate change.

    It is the GOP who chose money and economics over acknowledging that the world's climate IS changing (note all the earthquakes this year?) and it is the GOP who is hindering addressing this MAJOR issue.

    Quit playing small town politics (both sides!!) with something that can kill all our children and make this world an inhospitible place. This is not the Apocalypse....this is something we can slow down, that WE can stop.

    April 24, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  7. max

    The party of NO continues to roll with their politics over country agenda.
    This is horrible and so dsxtructive to our country. I say vote them all out!!!

    April 24, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  8. skip

    Sen. Graham, with all due respect, stop your pouting and get back to work.

    April 24, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  9. Gerry NH

    The only reason that the democrats are making immigration now is that they need them as cotozens for the 2012 election. This has nothing to do with what is right or wrong. The democrats must have everything there way orthey will us Chicago mob politics to get what they want.

    April 24, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  10. james kelly

    I don't like your opinion on issue "a", so I am "taking my ball home" on issue "b."

    April 24, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  11. Ejmounsey Granville Ohio

    What has immigration got to do with climate change? Come on, Senator Graham, there is more to this situation than you are telling us. . What happened to you on the way to becoming a citizen of this planet?
    EJM, Granville Ohio

    April 24, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  12. Jackie Treehorn

    thank god people are waking up...can't wait till the November slaughter... it's going to make the Clinton mid-term elections look like play time...

    April 24, 2010 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  13. Brian

    I'm disappointed to read about Graham joining rank with the other Republicans in the Senate and abandoning working with Democrats on climate change legislation. I don't support the Republican Party but I've always respected Senator Graham in that he was a common-sense Republican, more of a moderate. At least as far as climate change talks go, this is a sad step in the wrong direction and does nothing for the paltry bit of bipartisanship left in Washington.

    April 24, 2010 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  14. JFK

    The Party of No at work doing what they do best. Block, distract, and divide from getting anything done. Thank you Senator for proving once again that Republicans dont care about fixing anything.

    April 24, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  15. Alex

    Yet again, Republicans putting party over country.

    Instead of looking like he is somewhat cooperative – a move that would put him at direct odds with his party – he would rather just throw in the towel and abandon an important cause that has national security implications.

    April 24, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  16. Steve Lyons

    First things first. STOP ALL TAXES. Repeal the 16th Amendment.

    But seriously we do NOT need another tax which this is, but cut overhead. Take for example the Congressional retirement plan. Why on earth should they get more taxpayer money than the recipient of Social Security. Both are taxpayer funded, but Congressional benefits are 6 times larger. Even private sector people that retire with millions don't get what Congress gets, even if they can collect any social security.

    This is all about taxing the US citizens into slavery.

    STOP IT NOW! ! ! !

    April 24, 2010 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  17. Sam

    The GOP will never support anything that stops "Big Companies" from taking advantage of the middle class. The GOP only cares about Exon, Shell and Wallstreet.

    April 24, 2010 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  18. rashid

    Everybody knows the GOP wants to stop obama's presidency at all costs

    April 24, 2010 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  19. john

    The global warming hoax has already been exposed....liberals want to punish america and its citizens thru higher energy costs and taxes....anyone who believes this GLOBAL WARMING bill is anything but a way for the govt to intrude more into our lives AND increase taxes to include having a federal check list of energy efficiency to sell your home, meaning thousands of dollars you have to put into your house before the govt thugs will let you sell it..is a moron..AKA liberal dem!!!

    April 24, 2010 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  20. Da Professor

    Like most Repubs these days you cannot trust them. Their only focus is to recover what they lost in 2006 and 2008. They could care less about America and the World. They will lie, rattle off hypocritical comments, fund the Tea Party transportation, hotel rooms, meals, sign printing etc. etc. ad nauaeum. A very sad state of mind.

    April 24, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  21. jen

    The president can play all the games of golf he wants. He has worked harder to help middle class Americans in 14 months then Bush did in 8 years!

    I don't know why it is any surprise when the GOP doesn't cooperate to help this country! They don't want to do ANYTHING to help make the lives of average Americans better and safer (only the super rich and corporations). Their entire purpose is only to obstruct and lie to keep/get more Republicans in office. They don't do anything else! Why would anyone want to vote in this group? It is beyond me.

    April 24, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  22. Indy

    Obama is the hardest working President in a long time and it is no surprise Republicans can't keep up with him. They just want to delay anything and everything and Obama is all about getting things done.When the going gets tough the Republicans pout and want everything to take forever to get done. This is how a progressive President works and this no no place for the weak and mild Republicans.

    April 24, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  23. Jeff.

    He's just doing what the wingnuts want, so they stop trying to out him.

    April 24, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  24. WJS486

    I guess we'll just have to throw out all the Republicans in November.....then something can actually be accomplished.

    April 24, 2010 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  25. Pragmatic

    ... however the whiner Graham didn't seem to mind when the Bush administration did nothing about reforming either immigration of climate change!

    Like the boy who cried wolf ... most people just assume the GOP is going to vote "no" -just because they are the party of nothing more than " cynical political ploys"

    SC: too small to be a country – too large to be an insane asylum!

    April 24, 2010 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
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