Graham calls Democrats immigration push 'phony'

WASHINGTON _ South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham lashed out at President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Saturday for putting what he called "phony" immigration law changes ahead of a major climate change bill that Graham and other senators were about to introduce.

Graham, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut had scheduled a Capitol Hill news conference Monday to unveil energy legislation they’ve been developing for months.

Reid, who's facing a tough re-election fight in Nevada, and Obama have indicated that dealing with the nation’s nearly 7 million illegal aliens would be next on the Senate’s agenda after its current bid to tighten regulation of banks and investment firms.

Obama Friday criticized a new Arizona law authorizing a crackdown on undocumented workers, saying it shows why Congress must act soon to overhaul immigration law.

Graham, however, charged that "raw, political calculations" underlie the Democrats' sudden push for new immigration legislation _ which he said has no chance of passing this year.

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

Graham is the only Republican senator who's helped craft both major climate change and immigration legislation. A bipartisan immigration reform measure he'd helped draft in 2007 died in the Senate after weeks of bitter debate.

“Immigration and energy reform are equally vital to our economic and national security and have been ignored for far too long," Senate Majority Leader Reid said Saturday in a statement. “. . . 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. 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."

Major Hispanic advocacy groups have criticized Obama for failing to made good on his 2008 campaign promises to help illegal aliens gain legal residence in the United States.

Latinos are a key voting bloc in Nevada, where Reid's approval ratings have fallen and polls there indicate that he'll face a stiff challenge from whichever of a half dozen Republican candidates is victorious in a GOP primary in June.

"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," Graham said.


While Congress talks, Arizona takes action on immigration

Despite Obama's vow, immigration overhaul unlikely this year

Marriage fraud cases involves Fort Bragg soldiers

Deportations hurt immigration charges defense, says poultry company

Check out McClatchy's expanded politics coverage at Planet Washington

Related stories from Biloxi Sun Herald