Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), once the subject of intense wooing by supporters of comprehensive immigration reform, on Wednesday accused the White House and Senate Democrats of pushing the issue “for partisan gain.”
In a statement released by his office, Graham called efforts to identify new Republican partners for comprehensive reform “incredibly disappointing” and charged that, “our Democratic colleagues brought this issue up for apparent partisan gain just months before an election. This raw display of partisanship just makes it more difficult to address this very serious problem in the future.”
Graham, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, has become increasingly hostile to the idea of tackling comprehensive reform this year; he had earlier been negotiating a bill with Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.).
In his statement, Graham noted that numerous Democrats have also been cool to addressing immigration reform this year, noting that, “I believe there are at least a double-digit number of Democratic Senators who would not support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship today.”
Graham named Sens. Jim Webb (Va.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan (N.D.) as Democrats who have either opposed immigration reform in the past or questioned the decision to bring it up this year.
“Let’s be clear, the lack of support for comprehensive immigration reform is not a Republican problem, it is an institutional problem. There is just not the appetite — on either side of the aisle — for this issue right now,” Graham said, arguing that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) should focus on a more targeted, border security bill instead.
“I believe there are 80 votes for a border security bill this year, and that is where we should focus our efforts. Congressional passage of border security this year helps build support for comprehensive reform in the future,” he said.