Graham: Health Care Reconciliation Could Stall Immigration Reform

Posted March 11, 2010 at 6:19pm

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) used a Thursday meeting with President Barack Obama on immigration reform to warn him that the issue “could come to a halt for the year” if Democrats use reconciliation to pass health care reform.

Graham, along with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), met with Obama to update him on their efforts to advance immigration reform legislation. During the meeting, Graham said he made it clear to the president that the already difficult task of passing immigration reform becomes even harder when reconciliation is in play.

“I expressed, in no uncertain terms, my belief that immigration reform could come to a halt for the year if health care reconciliation goes forward. For more than a year, health care has sucked most of the energy out of the room. Using reconciliation to push health care through will make it much harder for Congress to come together on a topic as important as immigration,” Graham said in a statement.

Beyond talk of reconciliation, Graham said Obama “welcomed” the Senators’ immigration proposal and said that he needs time to review it. In the meantime, Graham said he and Schumer will share their ideas with Senate colleagues in the coming weeks.

Schumer and Graham have yet to unveil legislation, although details have emerged on its key components. They include beefed up border security, a biometric Social Security card, a temporary worker program and, in Graham’s words, “a rational plan to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States.”

Both Senators told Obama that he needs to become more personally engaged on immigration reform, particularly when it comes to sticky issues like engaging unions in the creation of a temporary worker program and in addressing virtual fencing along the southern border. Graham said the latter issue “has proven much more complex and difficult to implement than originally expected.”

In a statement, Obama said after meeting with the Senators that he was “pleased to learn of their progress” in advancing immigration reform and called their proposal “a promising framework.”