Sen. Lindsey Graham wants to be Congress’ lead negotiator on overhauling the nation’s immigration system, but the South Carolina Republican is facing potentially insurmountable challenges.
What would ordinarily give him stature as a valuable dealmaker — his history of compromising with Democrats and his close relationship with President Donald Trump — could end up being liabilities.
Trump was elected for promising to limit legal immigration, and for taking a strident tone on who should be allowed to enter the country. Reports that the president this week questioned the value of admitting immigrants from “shithole countries” into the United States underscored that notion.
Graham has until this point enjoyed probably a better relationship with Trump than most of his colleagues, with a direct line to the Oval Office and frequent golfing invitations.
He might, though, have weakened his bargaining position with a leader who doesn’t like to be called out. Graham was at the meeting when Trump made his incendiary comments, and did not deny reports Friday that he personally challenged Trump for making the remarks.
But Graham’s vulnerabilities as an immigration power broker have deeper roots.