Graham: GOP should look for opportunities to work with Obama

Republicans in Congress should look for opportunities to work with President Obama in the next two years, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested Tuesday evening.

Graham weighed in to the sustained debate within the GOP about how or whether the party, which is poised to make gains in Congress, should work with Democrats. On issues like Social Security, energy, and job creation, Graham said, Republicans should seize opportunities to work with the president, if for no other reason than to help move Obama toward the political center.

"My belief is that, if we get back power in the House, and get close in the Senate, that we ought to really clamp down on spending and reform the government," Graham said on WVOC radio in South Carolina. "But we ought to not put ourself in a position of being the 'party of no' to hard problems. But we ought to sit down with the president and work on Social Security, come up with an energy policy without cap-and-trade.

"There's plenty of things that we could do on job creation by challenging President Obama to come to the middle, and find ways to move us forward as a nation, and put the burden on him to say no to us," added the South Carolina Republican.

Graham's comments would seem to put him in the camp of Republicans who believe that the party should use its newfound power in Congress, which could include control of the House, to find areas of compromise with Democrats. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) last week suggested that the GOP's long-held promise to repeal healthcare reform was unrealistic, and not the best tactic for the party.

Graham himself had already drawn the ire of some conservatives in his own party over the past two years for his willingness to work with Democrats. He'd sought to accomplish comprehensive immigration reform and a comprehensive energy and climate bill earlier in the session, but negotiations on those proposals eventually broke down.

But other Republicans have sought to take a harder line toward Obama and congressional Democrats. Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), the third-ranking House Republican, vowed "no compromise" on major issues last week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, said in an interview published this week that Republicans' No. 1 priority would be defeating Obama in 2012.

Graham broke slightly with those in his party who've stressed a hard-line stance, and urged the party to work constructively, especially on Social Security reform.

"One thing I think we ought to do, other than blocking his agenda and controlling spending, is trying to solve a hard problem like Social Security," he said. "And if we show our willingness to work with him on that, I think that would be well-received by the American people."

Obama and Senate Democrats, bruised and beaten by the 2010 elections, would also relent on extending all tax cuts set to expire at year's end, Graham predicted.

"I do believe that these Democrats will vote with us in large enough numbers to get it out of the Senate," Graham explained. "And I don't think that President Obama will veto an extension of the Bush tax cuts for two or three years, because the public is sending a real clear message this election cycle."