tags: Press Releases

Whose "Cynical Political Ploy?"

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Senators Graham, McCain and Kyl Now Move to Block Immigration Reform, and They Accuse Democrats of Playing Politics?

Washington, DC – Senator Lindsey Graham has been truly courageous in working with Democrats on both comprehensive immigration reform and climate change legislation. He has seemed deeply committed to both. But now he is threatening to derail climate change because he’s angry that Democrats are promising to move immigration reform, too. Yesterday he called the Democrats’ commitment to advance immigration reform “a cynical political ploy.” What’s going on here?

The following is a perspective from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“Senator Graham has stood up to many in his party and his party’s leadership on comprehensive immigration reform. He has been working diligently with Senator Charles Schumer on a comprehensive proposal for nearly a year. In mid-March, the two senators published a framework for comprehensive immigration reform that was embraced by the President and constituencies across the political spectrum. At that time, Senator Graham publicly challenged President Obama and the Democrats to act. He privately asked the President to help secure the support of other Republican senators. The idea was to prepare the country and the Senate for a legislative debate.

“Subsequently, President Obama spoke up forcefully on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, touted the Graham-Schumer approach as the basis for reform, and made multiple phone calls to Republican senators seeking their support for it. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear his commitment to bringing immigration reform to the Senate floor (as well as climate change legislation), and Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised quick House action on immigration following Senate approval. Meanwhile, the Arizona governor signed into law a radical state bill that shows the consequences of Congressional inaction.

“As advocates for comprehensive immigration reform, we were pleased that that the President and Democratic leadership began stepping up. We expected Senator Graham to be pleased as well. We seemed headed for the introduction of a Schumer-Graham bipartisan bill in late April or early May and Senate Judiciary Committee action in May.

“Remarkably, despite doing exactly what he asked them to do, Senator Graham has pitched a fit and accused Democrats of playing politics. What’s going on here? We have a theory: Senator Graham wanted to do immigration reform, but it became clear this spring that his friend, Senator John McCain, is in a fight for his political life. In a state where the Republican Party has become consumed by nativism, McCain is in a close primary battle against anti-immigrant fire-breather J.D. Hayworth. With the primary scheduled for late August, Graham does not want to subject his friend to a ‘tough vote’ this summer. So he decided to blame the President, slow walk the immigration bill, and gear up on climate change. Now that the ‘perfect crime’ isn’t working out the way he wanted, Graham is threatening to take his marbles and go home.

“Meanwhile, Senators McCain and Kyl, both of whom nobly fought for comprehensive immigration reform in the past, are threatening to filibuster a bill if it is brought forward. They, too, seem determined to head off an immigration reform debate, even though their state is ground zero for the issue. Senator McCain even embraced the state law that is eerily similar to a 2005 Congressional bill he once denounced as ‘anti-Hispanic.’

“So, the President and Democratic leaders do what Graham asks of them, they embrace a framework drafted by Graham and based on elements championed by McCain and Kyl in the past, they begin to prepare the country for a legislative debate, and they are they are the ones accused of playing politics? “All of this begs the question: exactly who is engaged in a ‘cynical political ploy’?”