Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) unloaded on President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders on Thursday, charging that their partisan push to overhaul health care has poisoned the Senate and made it nearly impossible to achieve consensus on major issues going forward.
Graham has a long history of negotiating across the aisle on contentious issues and is currently working on immigration reform legislation with Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and on a climate change bill with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.). But Graham said the rancor left by the health care debate had killed immigration legislation this year, while signaling that the chances of clearing a climate bill were also tenuous.
"The process that led to the passage of this bill was sleazy. It did not represent the best of the United States Senate," Graham told reporters during a news conference following a final Senate vote on the health care reconciliation package. "The consequences of passing this bill, this way, will last for a very long time."
When President George W. Bush was in office and Republicans controlled the Senate, Graham played a key role as a member of the bipartisan "gang of 14" to resolve an impasse over stalled judicial nominees.
"One of the collateral damages of this process and this bill is that, in my view, the president has lost some moral authority to lead this nation in the future to make hard decisions," Graham continued. "He has become, in my view, a partisan politician in the worst sense of the term."
Graham took particular umbrage with claims by Senate Democrats and Obama that the $940 billion health care overhaul will reduce the federal deficit. Although the Congressional Budget Office projects $143 billion in deficit savings from the bill in the first decade, Graham said the CBO only delivered that score because Democrats did not include the "doc fix" bill to prevent doctors who serve Medicare patients from receiving a scheduled pay cut.
"The president is going throughout the country today and claiming that this bill reduces the deficit by about $138 billion. That is a disingenuous statement," Graham said. "Mr. President, my challenge to you is to stop staying that this bill reduces the deficit, because it's not true."
Graham did praise Obama on a few foreign policy matters, however, including his handling of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Graham also said he would continue to work with the administration on resolving the handling of terrorist detainees. Graham, who is set to spend a week on military reserve duty, said he respects Obama as his commander in chief, regardless of their disagreements.