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. mattnoj

    Let the Republican lie machine start cranking away. And the Tea Party trolls play their games. Don't they have black helicopters to chase down?

    April 24, 2010 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  2. VirginiaJeff

    Seriously? Sen. Graham can't handle more than one piece of legislation at time??

    April 24, 2010 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  3. luan issuffi

    What else is new!
    Those bancrupted GOP loud pieces can only pretend that they have public interest in their stupid remarks while selling to big bussines
    and loading their friends pockets.
    They all should be thrown out of their offices.

    April 24, 2010 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  4. angel

    this is getting ridicoulouse, the senate and congress can not work on anything that will actualy help the country and constitution they swore to uphold. Oh, I'm sorry that states that we do what is write for the party and the constituants(lobbiest) not the country. The senate and congress are acting like 10 year olds. (You give me that or I wont play with You.)

    April 24, 2010 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    little ol southern boy is packing up his marbels and going home. Gee we are all surprised. Hey totus or what ever have you forgotten ol bush wacking bush down in crawford? Git a grip. Repos just being repos . They wouldn't work with our president unless they thought they would be booted out of office. Hey thats a thought!

    April 24, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  6. HomeSkillet

    Totus For President ... you're correct. Bush was never much of a golf man. The total of 3+ years he spent AWAY from the White House while he was – and, I use this term loosely – "in charge," were mostly spent in Crawford, fishing, hunting and doing God knows what.

    GOP is so repetitive and redundant it is mind-numbingly boring. You all sound like petulant little children. We had to put up with your tool of a president for eight years – we're in charge now, so sit down and shut up.

    April 24, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    The party of no.

    April 24, 2010 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  8. melane3

    Everyone should remember that Repubs fought the stimulus bill, the health care bill, the banking reform bill, the immigration bill, etc.

    As the economy improves, and everyone has health care coverage, and the banks are better regulated, and we finally have a coherent immigration/work policy – everyone should remember that Repubs fought against everything Obama did. The Republican Party, the party of NO! – no ideas, no sense, no courage. The modern conservative movement is a joke!

    April 24, 2010 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  9. larryt

    how very ,very JUVENILE !

    April 24, 2010 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  10. Fed Up!

    Apparently the good senator is incapable of multi-tasking like the rest of us.

    Must be nice.

    April 24, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  11. marty

    Frankly, it seems that it the Democrats that are forcing an agenda. Is this going to be another 2400 page debacle? The neo-socialist agenda must, MUST be defeated or the liberties we all enjoy will be gone.

    April 24, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  12. Dale

    So if I read this straight... the Republican party is holding the planet earth hostage (or trying to) to get their way on a domestic political issue?

    April 24, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  13. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Theres no climate change its an Al Gore scam any way we should all be happy government spending will take a long needed break .

    April 24, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  14. Independent_me

    Are we really surprised by this???
    The Republicans have one agenda – to destroy Obama at any cost.
    What does surprise me, though, is that this is supposed to be the "Christian" Party – the Party of God, Morals, Family Values and the Flag...

    Yet they lag far behind the Democrats in the application of Christian principles to their agendas. Christians are supposed to take care of the poor – they vote against health care, and against extending unemployment benefits to the unemployed.

    Christians are supposed to take care of the environment – they disparage those who want to protect the environment.

    They are hypocrites that God will judge. They use Christians, confuse them with right-sounding rhetoric – while all the while indulging in evil practices.

    God will judge them!

    April 24, 2010 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  15. Al Pearson

    Way to go, deflect attention away from calls about your sexuality in a feeble attempt to divert attention. When in doubt, the Republicans always use fear to mask the fact that they have nothing to offer.

    April 24, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  16. Mike

    From CNN's Dana Bash and Ed Henry

    What else!

    April 24, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  17. Alvaro Mendez

    It seems to me that Graham and his "team players"have only three choices in their mind:
    1/money (all they can get)
    2/power (all they can get)
    3/benefits for the whole world... (immigration, ecology, peace, health, econimy, etc, etc, etc...
    Mmmh!, ...I think we can discard one...

    April 24, 2010 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  18. normajean

    I'm surprised that Linsey Graham even knows the meaning of the words serious and comprehensive.Following the last year and a half of "NO", I question whether the Repubs can accomplish anything ,without , lies,arguments and confusion..They have made no effort to do anything on their own and won't let the President get anything done without their complaints and total interference. They seem to think that the voters aren't watching. They'll find out when the ballots come in. I've reached a point where I can't see a Repub. that I'd vote for NEVER AGAIN.

    April 24, 2010 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  19. Praz mantua NJ

    "If I don't get what I want for Christmas I am not showing up for New year's!!!" Grown adults acting like children. I actually thought this guy had some guts and princilples guess I am wrong again.

    April 24, 2010 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Republicans will "no" themselves into irrelevance. It is almost amusing to watch as they try to rationalize their loyalty to the corrupt corporate leaders to almost bankrupt this country while paying themselves HUGE BONUSES. WAIT, WAIT, why the rush is all I hear. Unfortunately, they did not follow their own advise before we rushed off to spend a TRILLION dollars on IRAQ and murder 5,000 American soldiers. Shame on you.

    April 24, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  21. Bowen

    "Moving forward on immigration – in this hurried, panicked manner – is nothing more than a cynical political ploy."

    Just like the so-called "Contract with America" and the Patriot Act. Honestly, Republican hypocrisy and stonewalling seems to know no bounds. Here's an idea, Republicans: Stop being part of the problem, start being a part of the solution, and do the jobs you were elected to do instead of just saying "No" all the time.

    April 24, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  22. Frozone

    Everything must wait because Graham doesn't want to be outed.

    April 24, 2010 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  23. mb-texas

    wow.Surprise Graham has had a rough week the Republicans have
    been working on him.So another no,no,no,no to help the American people. It is a shame that The no group will come to the brink of
    doing something good and then wham no,no,no..

    April 24, 2010 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  24. normajean

    So the president gets a chance to relax with occasional golf. Isn't that awful. He could have spent weeks at a time on a ranch as Bush did.What do you do in your spare time? work? Ha.Smart "A'

    April 24, 2010 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  25. mb-texas

    wow.Surprise Graham has had a rough week the Republicans have
    been working on him.So another no,no,no,no to help the American people. It is a shame that The no group will come to the brink of
    doing something good and then wham no,no,no..This comment just sent one time please pass this through.

    April 24, 2010 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
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