South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Grahamn is getting an enormous
amount of flack for subtracting his initial from the K
energy bill that was due to be revealed this morning. Graham's decision
delays debate and could possibly be fatal for the bill's prospects. Why
did Graham decide pull out?
"Moving forward on immigration -- in
this hurried, panicked manner -- is nothing more than a cynical
political ploy," he wrote in a letter released this weekend. Even though
Graham has been working with New York's Sen. Chuck Schumer on an
immigration bill, the South Carolina senator's charge has a basis in
Senate majority leader Harry Reid decided to
immigration for at least two reasons, one of them naked political
self-interest: his standing with Latinos in his own state is not
where it needs to be for him to be re-elected, and he promised them,
quite recently, that he would move aggressively on immigration.
to Democratic strategists, Latinos need to make up at
least 15 percent of the electorate in Nevada for Reid to have a chance
at winning. They're now saying they'll turn out at about a rate of 10
percent. The White House, knowing full well that Reid's leadership on
health care may have permanently damaged his re-election chances, is
not going to stand in Reid's way.
rationale is also
political: he reasons that the toughest vote House Democrats took in
2009 was on the Waxman-Markey Climate Change legislation. He doesn't
want to subject his vulnerable Senate colleagues to the same pressures,
and he doesn't want to bring up a bill that would hurt the Democratic
Party's chances of keeping the House of Representatives.
this the sudden nationalization of the immigration issue by the passage
of Arizona's draconian new law allowing police to demand the papers of
suspected illegal immigrants on sight.
The Democrats reason that the politics of immigration being what they
are, getting an actual bill through Congress by November is not likely.
(Graham understands this, too.) What is
likely is a bill that
allow Democrats who need to oppose immigration reform in theory because
of its alleged "amnesty" provisions to do so -- while allowing the
party, behind the scenes, to whip up the Hispanic vote and communicate
to Latinos that the promise of pushing reform is being fulfilled. They
also anticipate that President Obama will take unilateral action to fix
current problems -- maybe he'll send troops to the border, maybe he'll
ask the Department of Homeland Security to ease up on enforcement in
the name of the economy. The House hasn't done anything on immigration
yet, and won't do so until the Senate finishes. So House Democrats won't
need to worry about a tough vote.
So Graham, who has been working
with Democrats and the White House, has ample reason to be
upset. But Graham also faces severe political cross-pressures. He is
increasingly a voice of one in his conference. His colleagues have
urged him not to cooperate with Democrats. His best friend, John
McCain, will face a hard choice on immigration reform measures in the
Senate. And at home, Graham's political standing is at an ebb. The
is floated to around to describe his less-than-pure position on
immigration. On top of that, he faces a bizarre and unseemly whisper
campaign by state Tea Party activists about his
Other Democrats insist that climate change and energy legislation is
still on track, but that track doesn't extend much beyond the 60-vote
threshold to start debate because it hasn't been built yet.