FOX "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" - Transcript - Immigration

Interview

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Jan. 28, 2013
Location: Unknown

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, we think hell just froze over! Bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, a group of eight senators, Republicans and Democrats, proposing a new and wide-ranging plan for immigration reform. Now, one of those senators, Republican senator Lindsey Graham, joins us. Good evening, sir. So are we going to get immigration -- bipartisan immigration reform?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, there will be no immigration reform unless it's bipartisan. But if you want to talk about the president bringing us together and being a bold leader, in 2007, when we tried to do immigration reform, he folded like a cheap suit when the labor -- AFL-CIO got mad at the bill to allow temporary workers. Obama -- Senator Obama put a sunset on the temporary worker provision, which destroyed the bill for business.

So I don't need a lecture from Barack Obama about bipartisanship. He was never very good at it in the Senate. And if you're going to get a bill, you need the president involved.

So Mr. President, when you speak tomorrow to the nation about immigration reform, hope you don't suggest that you're going to take a pathway to citizenship and delink it from border security because if you don't secure the border, we know what happens. You're going to have 12 million illegal immigrants 20 years from now.

VAN SUSTEREN: He -- President Obama gave a speech about immigration reform at American University in July of 2009.

GRAHAM: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I went up and listened to the speech. At the time, he had a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate. Why -- why would he not take advantage of that time and do immigration reform? Is it because you truly can't move multiple bills through Congress, you guys can't eat and chew gum at the same time and do two things, or wasn't his heart in it?

GRAHAM: Well, I think what he did in 2008, he promised comprehensive immigration reform in the first year of his presidency, and he led off with ObamaCare, and that took all the oxygen out of the room and...

VAN SUSTEREN: Could he do it both? He can't do both?

GRAHAM: Well, by the time ObamaCare was done, it took the whole year, the place was divided and bitter. And all the political capital he had in that first year of his presidency, he picked the most divisive issue he could find. Rather than bringing us together, he passed a bill on party line votes, the "Cornhusker kickback," the "Louisiana purchase" behind closed door negotiating, not one Republican voted for it in the Senate. If he'd have focused on comprehensive immigration reform in a bipartisan fashion, we'd have had it done in 2009.

VAN SUSTEREN: But couldn't they be done at the same time? I mean, couldn't they have been -- is there -- there's no sort of rule that you have to do one and wait for the next time.

GRAHAM: Well, no, but there's a logic to spending your political capital wisely and keeping your word. He promised comprehensive immigration reform in the his first year. He didn't lift a finger. And here we are, a bunch of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, leading yet again on this issue.

I hope the president, when he speaks tomorrow, will understand that to get this done, he's going to have to be a genuine bipartisan partner and not create political friction over this. This will not get done without the president being involved.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, how come the Senate -- bipartisan Senate group today came out and made the announcement about the Senate plan -- it's an outline of a plan -- knowing that the president was going to go out to Nevada tomorrow and announce his? Was that -- was that to undermine the president somehow?

GRAHAM: No, it was to let the president know that if you want to get a deal done, if you want to solve the problem, here's a blueprint. You've got eight...

VAN SUSTEREN: But couldn't you have waited until Wednesday or made a phone call to him?

GRAHAM: I don't know why he's doing this.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I want to know why you guys did it the day before him.

GRAHAM: Well, we were talking with the White House for a long time and we said, Instead of going in two different directions, let's try to come together. We got to get the House on the board and we got to get the president on board because you just can't pass a bill through the Senate and make it law.

VAN SUSTEREN: You don't think it's funny that you guys came out a day before and sort of took the wind out of his sails.

GRAHAM: No, it wasn't funny at all. I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean funny being peculiar.

GRAHAM: No. I think what's peculiar is the president wants to go and basically chart a different path. And what I've heard about what he's going to say, he's going to say there's no need to link a pathway to citizenship to border security.

Excuse me, Mr. President. The last time we provided a pathway to citizenship and didn't secure our border was in 1986. I'm not going to do that again. We're never going to do that again. We're never going to allow people to become -- have a legal status until we secure our border.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Senator Hagel has been nominated by the president for secretary of defense. How are you going to vote on that one?

GRAHAM: It will depend on what he says on the hearing Thursday. But the one thing I'm not going to do is vote on a new secretary of defense until the old secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, who I like very much, testifies about what happened in Benghazi.

I haven't forgotten about Benghazi. Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view. She said they had a clear-eyed view of the threats. How could you have a clear-eyed of the threats in Benghazi when you didn't know about the ambassador's cable coming back from Libya?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you guys had 10 hours with her! I mean, 10 hours ...

GRAHAM: Well, all I can say is, you know, our guys tried to ask questions. She is very good on her feet, deflecting these questions. But she said two things that will come back to haunt her, that they had a clear-eyed assessment of the threats in Libya and that they had close contact with the Libyan government. I don't believe either one of them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is Secretary Panetta going to testify?

GRAHAM: Well, I'm not going to -- I'm going to block Hagel from going forward until he does.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you're going to block him.

GRAHAM: Absolutely. Why would we not want to understand what happened during the attack itself? How could our secretary -- what happened for seven hours? Why were there no military assets available on September the 11th ...
VAN SUSTEREN: Why hasn't he been called by the House?

GRAHAM: I have no idea why he hasn't been called by the House. But what did the president do? When did the president first get notified of the attack on our consulate? What did he do for those seven hours? If he did order assets to go in to help these people, when did he give the order? And what did he say when they told him, There's nothing we can do?

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

GRAHAM: Thank you.