“Elections have consequences.”
That is what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said when he voted to confirm both of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the Supreme Court. He explained that although he would not have made the choices Obama did, he had to let the president lead, and respect his judgment.
But Graham seems to have a different rule for President Donald Trump, as he attacks not just the White House’s immigration policy, but also its personnel.
In January, Graham blasted presidential aide Stephen Miller, calling him an “outlier” with “extreme and unrealistic” views.
“As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we’re going nowhere,” he said.
He repeated his attack on Miller this week, and lashed out at the Department of Homeland Security for its statement opposing Graham’s bipartisan immigration bill (which failed in the Senate this week, like the other three bills).
The administrative staff that a president hires to assist him with his duties, and the policies he directs the executive agencies to apply, are the most basic consequences of the election that put that president in office. These are not appointments that require Senate confirmation, nor are they policies that require the approval of other branches of government, as long as they stay within the laws passed by Congress and obey the principles upheld by the courts.
Stephen Miller is a hard-liner on immigration. So is Trump — and that is the reason Trump won the Republican nomination, ahead of 17 other candidates, including Graham.
It is also the reason the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been cracking down on illegal immigration under Trump. Graham’s compromise bill wanted DHS to ignore illegal crossings for the next four-and-a-half months. No wonder DHS opposed it vigorously.
In his complaints, Graham sounds disturbingly like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who told the president last month that there could be no immigration deal as long as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) was involved, and also complained about the White House staff involved in the negotiations. Schumer and his party would prefer to negotiate with Republicans like Graham, who give them almost everything they want in the name of bipartisanship.
Actually, Miller, and Cotton, have shown that they are willing to compromise — to the point where Cotton even lost the endorsement of an anti-amnesty PAC.
Graham’s problem is not Miller, or Cotton, or the staffer who wrote the DHS criticism of his bill. His problem is not even with Trump, who hired Miller and set the new policies for DHS. Rather, Graham’s problem is with the two-thirds of American voters who share Trump’s views on immigration.
Graham is the first to participate in bipartisan legislation for its own sake. But he now refuses to talk to those who disagree with him on immigration.
On issues where Graham agrees with the president, such as national security, he has been effusive in his praise. But he is unwilling to accept that Trump’s election has any consequences for the immigration issue. And his rejection of the will of the voters is widely shared by his colleagues, who still refuse to put border security and law enforcement before legal status for illegal aliens, despite decades of legislative failure.
Not even the fact that a president has come into office with the clearest possible mandate on immigration policy has moved Washington to act. The issue will now, once again, go to the voters.
Perhaps the Democrats will be in for a surprise in November, after they squandered a double-digit lead. And perhaps Lindsey Graham will finally listen.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.