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Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham

U.S. Senator, South Carolina

Republican

The Popular Vote

0 39 100 83
39%
Average based on 83 scores
  • Free Markets
    27%
  • National Security
    33%
  • American Exceptionalism
    30%
  • Consistency
    27%
  • Ethics
    27%
  • Principles
    26%
  • Accomplishments
    26%
  • Political Skills
    26%
  • Communications
    25%
  • Viability
    17%

Lindsey Graham

Out of the running Last modified: January 25, 2016

LPA's Final Grade: C+/78(Why this Grade?)

Free Market
8
National Security
10
American Exceptionalism
8
Consistency
9
Ethics
9
Principles
9
Accomplishments
7
Political Skills
8
Communication
8
Viability
2

Leadership MatrixCandidate grading is a dynamic process and is subject to change according to ongoing evaluation using the criteria of the Leadership Matrix.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a leading defense hawk, is generally considered a conservative, although he has also angered many conservatives with his positions in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, climate change legislation, campaign finance limits, and seeking compromise with Democrats on the issue of judicial filibusters.

His national security views have given him significant media exposure over the past decade, and his campaign is likely to focus on this issue in an attempt to stand out from the field. Graham is one of only a few military veterans running, and as a recognized leader on national security issues he may be able to attract significant support from Republicans who share and place a priority on his hawkish views.

He has consistently opposed higher taxes and Obamacare and is a reliably conservative vote on most non-economic issues as well, but his deviations from some conservative positions on climate change and immigration could hinder his ability to reach beyond his national security base of support.

He is closely allied with 2008 Republican nominee John McCain on many issues and has often been described as “pragmatic.” Both of these are likely to be used against him during the nomination fight by other candidates trying to claim the mantle of being the “real conservative” in the race.

Despite more than 20 years in Congress and more than his fair share of media appearances, Graham’s national name recognition remains low in terms of a presidential run. His poll numbers have languished at the bottom of a crowded field, although his fundraising places him more towards the middle of the (very large) pack. He is a skilled campaigner and his ability to deliver memorably humorous or scathing one-liners could be all he needs to propel himself into the top tier of contenders.

Graham is considered a longshot to win the Republican nomination, but he could be a contender if he turns in strong debate performances and is able to become the favored candidate of Republicans who list national security concerns as their No. 1 priority. At present, however, Graham is struggling to get into even the second tier of candidates.

Out of the running Last modified: January 25, 2016

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Graham has consistently supported lowering taxes and opposed tax increases during his time in office. He supported both the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts (commonly called the “Bush tax cuts), and voted for the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 which made permanent most of those tax cuts, but did allow tax rates to rise for those with high incomes.

He also voted to raise the inheritance tax exemption to $5 million and to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax. Graham is a signer of the Americans for Tax Reform “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.”

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In 2005, he supported giving greater power to the Federal Communications Commission through the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005. The action increased fines for broadcasting “obscene, indecent, or profane language” as determined by the FCC.

Graham has opposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25.

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Graham introduced the Job Protection Act, along with Sens. Lamar Alexander and Jim DeMint to preserve federal protection for state’s Right To Work laws, in response to the National Labor Relations Board moving to stop the Boeing corporation from building airplanes with non-union labor at a South Carolina plant. He also supported a measure to end collective bargaining for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees as well as amending the National Labor Relations Act to limit the power of the National Labor Relations Board. He also voted against so-called “card check” union organizing efforts that would effectively eliminate secret-ballot elections.

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Graham is supportive of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, having co-sponsored a bill in the Senate to approve its construction. He has been supportive of nuclear energy, and has supported legislation embracing an “all of the above” approach to American energy development, including “investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency, and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve to invest in alternative energy, and for other purposes.”

Graham has regularly supported government action to address climate change, having remarked that “global warming is happening and that it is largely man-made.” He joined with then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) in penning a joint op-ed in The New York Times that encouraged “aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change,” investing in nuclear power, reducing dependence on foreign oil by providing “new financial incentives for companies that develop carbon capture and sequestration technology,” imposing a border tax on countries like China and India that avoid environmental standards and developing “a mechanism to protect businesses — and ultimately consumers — from increases in energy prices.”

However, Graham has been critical of expanded power for the Environmental Protection Agency, saying, “EPA regulation of carbon is the worst possible scenario.” He has said he believes that “[r]egardless of whether you view climate change as a real threat or some grand hoax, carbon will eventually be regulated – either through congressional action or by the EPA.”

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Graham co-sponsored the conservative-backed Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011, which proposed cutting federal spending, putting a limit on future spending, and increased the debt ceiling. He voted against the 2011 debt ceiling increase, releasing a statement criticizing the deal because it “locks us into more debt, bigger government and most devastating of all, a weakened defense infrastructure at a time when we face growing threats.” He supports a balanced budget amendment.

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He voted against the 2003 creation of a prescription drug benefit in Medicare and co-sponsored an amendment to the legislation to require wealthier beneficiaries to pay more for their Medicare drug benefit. Graham criticized the final legislation, saying:

“Medicare is already scheduled to go bankrupt. Reform of the Medicare system and adding a prescription drug benefit were supposed to go hand-in-hand. Instead of sticking with that approach, we went 180 degrees the other way by adding a costly new benefit and dropping reform.”

He voted against allowing the federal government to dictate prices on prescription drugs through negotiations with manufacturers in 2007, a reversal from his 2005 vote in favor.

Graham has been outspoken and critical of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. He has sponsored several bills to defund and repeal Obamacare as well as measures that would have allowed states to opt out of one or more of the provisions of the law. He co-sponsored legislation expanding Medical Savings Accounts in 1999 (HSAs were created under the Medicare prescription drug benefit legislation he voted against).

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Graham voted for the 1996 welfare reform bill and also for the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act in 2013 that reduced funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

In 2011, he supported a measure that would have increased the eligibility age for Social Security to 70 in graduated stages while also slowing the growth in benefits. In 2005 Graham was the lead author of President George W. Bush’s Social Security reform proposal that would have reduced the growth in benefits, established voluntary private accounts that workers could invest up to four percentage points of their payroll tax into while also allowing additional contributions, and would include significant federal dollars to support the reform. He has noted on the campaign trail that his sister relied in part on Social Security survivors’ benefits after their parents died, and suggested he would seek a bipartisan solution similar to what Reagan achieved in the 1980s.

More recently he has suggested that means-testing for entitlement programs, presumably Social Security and possibly Medicare, should be part of serious reforms to safety-net programs.

He also was a co-sponsor of Sen. Rand Paul’s 2012 Medicare reform plan that would transition all beneficiaries into the federal employees’ health benefits plan, allowing them to choose private coverage using Medicare funds. The bill would also have raised the retirement age to 70 over the following 20 years.

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Graham voted for free trade agreements with Panama and Korea in 2011, Peru in 2007, and Oman in 2006. However, he voted against free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore in 2003, and CAFTA in 2005. He voted to grant Obama fast-track trade authority in May 2015, but only after receiving a pledge that the Senate would hold a vote on whether to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

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Graham has been a proponent of comprehensive immigration reform. He has said he would veto any immigration bill that didn’t include a pathway to citizenship, and he was a member of the so-called Gang of Eight that proposed and supported the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants currently in the United States illegally. The bill passed the U.S. Senate in 2013 but stalled after that.

He defended his support in a 2013 Meet The Press interview, saying:

“We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community, in my view, is to pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don’t do that, it really doesn’t matter who we run, [in 2016] in my view.”

Graham voted against a measure that would have required completion of 350 miles of fence described in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 “before registered provisional immigrant status” could be granted. It additionally required that 700 miles of fence be completed before the status of registered provisional immigrants could be changed to permanent resident status.

More recently, Graham has criticized the practice of giving citizenship status to anyone born in the United States, while also saying that mass deportation of illegal immigrants was “unworkable.”

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Graham supported and voted for the 2014 farm bill that provides significant subsidies to certain agricultural industries.

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Graham supported and voted for the 2014 farm bill that provides significant subsidies to certain agricultural industries.

Graham is a supporter of the Export-Import Bank, often criticized as corporate welfare. He also signed a letter to the EPA urging them to expand the amount of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline, although he did vote to end ethanol subsidies.

Graham opposed Dodd-Frank’s regulation of Wall Street, and he voted for the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), commonly referred to as the Wall Street bailout. He did oppose the use of TARP funds to bail out General Motors and Chrysler. He voted for repeal of the Glass-Steagall banking regulations and also in favor of Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002.

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Graham opposed Dodd-Frank’s regulation of Wall Street, and he voted for the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), commonly referred to as the Wall Street bailout. He did oppose the use of TARP funds to bail out General Motors and Chrysler. He voted for repeal of the Glass-Steagall banking regulations and also in favor of Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002.

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He has supported multiple measures to benefit veterans, including the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which allows veterans to seek care at private providers if they would have to wait to receive treatment from the VA, as well as the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2003, which increased funding for college through the GI Bill.

He co-sponsored the National Missile Defense Act of 1999, which declared “that it is U.S. policy to: (1) deploy as soon as technologically possible a National Missile Defense (NMD) system capable of defending U.S. territory against limited ballistic missile attack…”

Graham was critical of sequestration’s impact on military preparedness, saying:

“Taking four and a half million dollars out of the Defense Department, and if you don’t, if you exempt personnel, it’s got to come out of modernization and readiness. So that means you’d have to cancel contracts that would have the ripple effect. So a 10-year, $600 billion cut to Defense would be devastating.”

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He was highly critical of the Obama administration’s lack of military preparedness and response to the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and threatened to hold up the nominations of John O. Brennan to head the CIA and former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense until he was given a full accounting of Obama’s actions during the crisis.

He has criticized the Obama administration’s policy of releasing detainees from Guantanamo Bay and sending them to other nations. He also expressed opposition to the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used by the Bush administration on terrorist detainees, although he has not gone so far as to support criminal charges or sanctions against those involved, and he has sharply criticized what he called the “politically motivated” release by Senate Democrats of a report on the CIA’s interrogation of detainees. Graham supported Obama’s drone strikes on terrorists.

Graham called the Obama administration’s strategy to deal with ISIS “incoherent” and has accused him of utilizing the same failed strategy in Yemen. He has said he would put 10,000 U.S. troops into Iraq to help train that nation’s military and said it was a “fantasy” to believe the U.S. wouldn’t have to put troops in Syria to directly fight ISIS. He announced that in December he will introduce in the Senate a declaration of war on ISIS.

In September Graham called for the U.S. to accept more Syrian refugees in response to the waves of people leaving the war-torn country, but he reversed himself in late November following terrorist attacks in Paris that appear to have included at least one perpetrator who entered the country as a refugee. He now advocates a “timeout” from accepting refugees until greater security and screening measures are in place.

Graham co-sponsored, supported, and voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, which authorized the Iraq War.

Graham has supported multiple measures to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, including the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. He, along with nearly every other Republican senator, signed an open letter to the Iranian leadership explaining that an agreement reached with Obama but not ratified by the U.S. Senate could be undone by the next president. He has vociferously opposed the deal negotiated by the Obama administration and has said he would withhold funding to the International Atomic Energy Agency if its agreements with Iran are not revealed to Congress.

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Graham has supported multiple measures to deny Iran from developing nuclear weapons, including the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. He, along with nearly every other Republican senator, signed an open letter to the Iranian leadership explaining that an agreement reached with Obama but not ratified by the U.S. Senate could be undone by the next president. He has vociferously opposed the deal negotiated by the Obama administration and has said he would withhold funding to the International Atomic Energy Agency if its agreements with Iran are not revealed to Congress.

He has been a reliable ally of Israel, calling the nation “our best friend” and vowing to push back against any effort of the United Nations to take over peace talks between them and Palestinians as well as against any nation seeking to prosecute Israeli soldiers through the International Criminal Court. He sponsored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which opposed terrorism and supported “a peaceful two-state solution” to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Graham opposes Obama’s improvement of relations with Cuba and has pledged to stop funding for a U.S. embassy in the country.

He called for immediately shipping arms to Ukraine’s government to allow them to fight against Russian-backed separatists, and he linked Putin’s decision to annex Crimea to the Benghazi attack and Obama’s weakness, saying in a tweet: “It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression. #Ukraine”

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Graham serves on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Graham voted to confirm both John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, as well as to elevate Roberts to the position of chief justice. He also voted to confirm both of President Obama’s nominees to the court, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Graham described his vote to confirm Kagan as appropriate because she was “qualified,” saying that he was “protecting the Judiciary” and seeking to “ensure that hard-fought elections have meaning in our system.”

Graham has said that he’s “not worried about judicial activism,” and believes that the qualifications of judicial nominees should matter more than their politics. Graham served on the House Judiciary Committee from 1997 until 2002, and currently serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In 2005, Graham was a part of the so-called “Gang of 14” bipartisan group of senators who forged a compromise to end the Democrat filibuster of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. The agreement allowed the Democrats to retain the possible use of the filibuster of a judicial nominee in “extraordinary circumstance” while allowing an up or down vote in the U.S. Senate on three of Bush’s most conservative judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and William Pryor.

Graham said he would “respect the Court’s decision” in Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage), and said he would focus his effort on “protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience for those Americans that profoundly disagree with today’s decision.”

Graham has said the court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC has “gotta be fixed,” and has suggested a constitutional amendment to address the decision and campaign finance reform.

Graham voted to end racial preferences in college admissions.

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Graham has opposed gun control measures, including speaking out against a United Nations treaty that opponents are concerned would infringe on American sovereignty and the right to own firearms. He has been endorsed in his U.S. Senate campaigns by the National Rifle Association (NRA), who cited his support for a bill giving concealed carry permit holders reciprocity with other states that allow concealed carry as well as his opposition to extending background checks to private parties.

He was the lead sponsor in 2013 of an NRA-backed bill that would expand the number of mentally ill individuals prohibited from purchasing firearms.

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Graham is pro-life, and is the lead sponsor of a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks. He was the first to sponsor legislation making it a crime to injure or kill an unborn child in the commission of a federal crime, which he introduced in 1999 and finally saw passed in 2004. Endorsing him in 2014 for his re-election to the Senate, the head of South Carolina Citizens for Life referred to him as a “go-to lawmaker on right-to-life issues.” He supports exceptions to abortion bans in the cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is endangered, saying such exceptions are politically necessary.

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Although he said he believes marriage is between one man and one woman, and that states should have the authority to set their own policy on marriage, he also said that it would be a “waste of time” to try to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue. He instead favors focusing on religious liberty and protecting the rights of people and groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

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He voted for McCain-Feingold’s restrictions on giving to political parties, and recently said he would support a constitutional amendment to restrict so-called super PACs, which enable individuals, businesses, unions, and others to speak without limits about political candidates. He did oppose the DISCLOSE Act in 2010, which would have restricted most independent political speech, and voted against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given Congress unfettered ability to regulate and control money contributed or spent on political speech.

He is co-sponsor of an amendment that would prohibit the physical desecration of the U.S. flag, such as by burning it in protest, and in response to an incident in 2011 where a Florida pastor proposed burning copies of the Koran Graham issued a statement saying, “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war. During World War II, we had limits on what you could do if it inspired the enemy. (We should do) anything we can to push back here in America against acts like this that put our troops at risk.”

On religious liberty Graham supports the right of employers not to include contraceptive coverage in health plans if doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs.

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Graham opposed the Common Core education standards on 10th Amendment grounds and introduced a Senate resolution that would have allowed each state to establish and define its own academic standards and assessments.

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He was a co-sponsor of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.  He also co-sponsored the Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999, which, among other things, “transferred authority for granting waivers of certain federal statutes and regulations from the U.S. Department of Education to state agencies that met certain requirements.”

Graham opposed the Common Core education standards on 10th Amendment grounds and introduced a Senate resolution that would have allowed each state to establish and define its own academic standards and assessments.

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Graham consistently supported lowering taxes and opposed tax increases during his time in office. He supported both the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts (commonly called the “Bush tax cuts), and voted for the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 which made permanent most of those tax cuts, but did allow tax rates to rise for those with high incomes. In August 2015, he suggested that tax reform should flatten rates and reduce or eliminate deductions, with some portion of the revenue raised from reducing deductions being used to pay down debt – in other words, a tax increase. He also specified he would only be willing to consider this if Democrats agreed to raise retirement ages for Social Security and Medicare as well as means-testing for those programs.

He also voted to raise the inheritance tax exemption to $5 million and to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax. Graham is a signer of the Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

In 2005, he supported giving greater power to the Federal Communications Commission through the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005. The action increased fines for broadcasting “obscene, indecent, or profane language” as determined by the FCC.

Graham has opposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25.

Graham introduced the Job Protection Act, along with Sens. Lamar Alexander and Jim DeMint to preserve federal protection for states’ right-to-work laws, in response to the National Labor Relations Board moving to stop the Boeing corporation from building airplanes with non-union labor at a South Carolina plant. He also supported a measure to end collective bargaining for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees as well as amending the National Labor Relations Act to limit the power of the National Labor Relations Board. He also voted against so-called “card check” union organizing efforts that would effectively eliminate secret-ballot elections.

Graham is supportive of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, having co-sponsored a bill in the Senate to approve its construction. He has been supportive of nuclear energy, and has supported legislation embracing an “all of the above” approach to American energy development, including “investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency, and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve to invest in alternative energy, and for other purposes.”

Graham has regularly supported government action to address climate change, having remarked that “global warming is happening and that it is largely man-made.” He joined with then-Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) in penning a joint op-ed in The New York Times that encouraged “aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change,” investing in nuclear power, reducing dependence on foreign oil by providing “new financial incentives for companies that develop carbon capture and sequestration technology,” imposing a border tax on countries like China and India that avoid environmental standards and developing “a mechanism to protect businesses — and ultimately consumers — from increases in energy prices.”

However, Graham has been critical of expanded power for the Environmental Protection Agency, saying, “EPA regulation of carbon is the worst possible scenario.” He has said he believes that “[r]egardless of whether you view climate change as a real threat or some grand hoax, carbon will eventually be regulated – either through congressional action or by the EPA.”

Graham co-sponsored the conservative-backed Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011, which proposed cutting federal spending, putting a limit on future spending, and increased the debt ceiling. He voted against the 2011 debt ceiling increase, releasing a statement criticizing the deal because it “locks us into more debt, bigger government and most devastating of all, a weakened defense infrastructure at a time when we face growing threats.” He supports a balanced budget amendment.

He voted against the 2003 creation of a prescription drug benefit in Medicare and co-sponsored an amendment to the legislation to require wealthier beneficiaries to pay more for their Medicare drug benefit. Graham criticized the final legislation, saying:

“Medicare is already scheduled to go bankrupt. Reform of the Medicare system and adding a prescription drug benefit were supposed to go hand-in-hand. Instead of sticking with that approach, we went 180 degrees the other way by adding a costly new benefit and dropping reform.”

He voted against allowing the federal government to dictate prices on prescription drugs through negotiations with manufacturers in 2007, a reversal from his 2005 vote in favor.

Graham has been outspoken and critical of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. He has sponsored several bills to defund and repeal Obamacare as well as measures that would have allowed states to opt out of one or more of the provisions of the law. He co-sponsored legislation expanding Medical Savings Accounts in 1999 (HSAs were created under the Medicare prescription drug benefit legislation he voted against).

Graham voted for the 1996 welfare reform bill and also for the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act in 2013 that reduced funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

In 2011, he supported a measure that would have increased the eligibility age for Social Security to 70 in graduated stages while also slowing the growth in benefits. In 2005 Graham was the lead author of President George W. Bush’s Social Security reform proposal that would have reduced the growth in benefits, established voluntary private accounts that workers could invest up to four percentage points of their payroll tax into while also allowing additional contributions, and would include significant federal dollars to support the reform. He has noted on the campaign trail that his sister relied in part on Social Security survivors’ benefits after their parents died, and suggested he would seek a bipartisan solution similar to what Reagan achieved in the 1980s.

More recently he has suggested that means-testing for entitlement programs, presumably Social Security and possibly Medicare, should be part of serious reforms to safety-net programs.

He also was a co-sponsor of Sen. Rand Paul’s 2012 Medicare reform plan that would transition all beneficiaries into the federal employees’ health benefits plan, allowing them to choose private coverage using Medicare funds. The bill would also have raised the retirement age to 70 over the following 20 years.

Graham voted for free trade agreements with Panama and Korea in 2011, Peru in 2007, and Oman in 2006. However, he voted against free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore in 2003, and CAFTA in 2005. He voted to grant Obama fast-track trade authority in May 2015, but only after receiving a pledge that the Senate would hold a vote on whether to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.

Graham has been a proponent of comprehensive immigration reform. He has said he would veto any immigration bill that didn’t include a pathway to citizenship, and he was a member of the so-called Gang of Eight that proposed and supported the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants currently in the United States illegally. The bill passed the U.S. Senate in 2013 but stalled after that.

He defended his support in a 2013 Meet The Press interview, saying:

“We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community, in my view, is to pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don’t do that, it really doesn’t matter who we run, [in 2016] in my view.”

Graham voted against a measure that would have required completion of 350 miles of fence described in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 “before registered provisional immigrant status” could be granted. It additionally required that 700 miles of fence be completed before the status of registered provisional immigrants could be changed to permanent resident status.

More recently, Graham has criticized the practice of giving citizenship status to anyone born in the United States, while also saying that mass deportation of illegal immigrants was “unworkable.”

Graham supported and voted for the 2014 farm bill that provides significant subsidies to certain agricultural industries.

Graham is a supporter of the Export-Import Bank, often criticized as corporate welfare. He also signed a letter to the EPA urging them to expand the amount of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline, although he did vote to end ethanol subsidies.

Graham opposed Dodd-Frank’s regulation of Wall Street, and he voted for the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), commonly referred to as the Wall Street bailout. He did oppose the use of TARP funds to bail out General Motors and Chrysler. He voted for repeal of the Glass-Steagall banking regulations and also in favor of Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002.

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Graham, a veteran of the Air Force JAG Corps and Air Force Reserve, is outspoken in military issues and widely regarded as a defense hawk. He serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services.

He has supported multiple measures to benefit veterans, including the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, which allows veterans to seek care at private providers if they would have to wait to receive treatment from the VA, as well as the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2003, which increased funding for college through the GI Bill.

He co-sponsored the National Missile Defense Act of 1999, which declared “that it is U.S. policy to: (1) deploy as soon as technologically possible a National Missile Defense (NMD) system capable of defending U.S. territory against limited ballistic missile attack…”

Graham was critical of sequestration’s impact on military preparedness, saying:

“Taking four and a half million dollars out of the Defense Department, and if you don’t, if you exempt personnel, it’s got to come out of modernization and readiness. So that means you’d have to cancel contracts that would have the ripple effect. So a 10-year, $600 billion cut to Defense would be devastating.”

He was highly critical of the Obama administration’s lack of military preparedness and response to the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and threatened to hold up the nominations of John O. Brennan to head the CIA and former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense until he was given a full accounting of Obama’s actions during the crisis.

He has criticized the Obama administration’s policy of releasing detainees from Guantanamo Bay and sending them to other nations. He also expressed opposition to the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used by the Bush administration on terrorist detainees, although he has not gone so far as to support criminal charges or sanctions against those involved, and he has sharply criticized what he called the “politically motivated” release by Senate Democrats of a report on the CIA’s interrogation of detainees. Graham supported Obama’s drone strikes on terrorists.

Graham called the Obama administration’s strategy to deal with ISIS “incoherent” and has accused him of utilizing the same failed strategy in Yemen. He has said he would put 10,000 U.S. troops into Iraq to help train that nation’s military and said it was a “fantasy” to believe the U.S. wouldn’t have to put troops in Syria to directly fight ISIS. He announced that in December he will introduce in the Senate a declaration of war on ISIS.

In September Graham called for the U.S. to accept more Syrian refugees in response to the waves of people leaving the war-torn country, but he reversed himself in late November following terrorist attacks in Paris that appear to have included at least one perpetrator who entered the country as a refugee. He now advocates a “timeout” from accepting refugees until greater security and screening measures are in place.

Graham co-sponsored, supported, and voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002, which authorized the Iraq War.

Graham has supported multiple measures to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, including the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. He, along with nearly every other Republican senator, signed an open letter to the Iranian leadership explaining that an agreement reached with Obama but not ratified by the U.S. Senate could be undone by the next president. He vociferously opposed the deal negotiated by the Obama administration and said he would withhold funding to the International Atomic Energy Agency if its agreements with Iran are not revealed to Congress.

He has been a reliable ally of Israel, calling the nation “our best friend” and vowing to push back against any effort of the United Nations to take over peace talks between them and Palestinians as well as against any nation seeking to prosecute Israeli soldiers through the International Criminal Court. He sponsored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which opposed terrorism and supported “a peaceful two-state solution” to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Graham opposes Obama’s improvement of relations with Cuba and has pledged to stop funding for a U.S. embassy in the country.

He called for immediately shipping arms to Ukraine’s government to allow them to fight against Russian-backed separatists, and he linked Putin’s decision to annex Crimea to the Benghazi attack and Obama’s weakness, saying in a tweet: “It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression. #Ukraine”

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Graham serves on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Graham voted to confirm both John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, as well as to elevate Roberts to the position of chief justice. He also voted to confirm both of President Obama’s nominees to the court, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Graham described his vote to confirm Kagan as appropriate because she was “qualified,” saying that he was “protecting the Judiciary” and seeking to “ensure that hard-fought elections have meaning in our system.”

Graham has said that he’s “not worried about judicial activism,” and believes that the qualifications of judicial nominees should matter more than their politics. Graham served on the House Judiciary Committee from 1997 until 2002, and currently serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In 2005, Graham was a part of the so-called “Gang of 14” bipartisan group of senators who forged a compromise to end the Democrat filibuster of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. The agreement allowed the Democrats to retain the possible use of the filibuster of a judicial nominee in “extraordinary circumstance” while allowing an up or down vote in the U.S. Senate on three of Bush’s most conservative judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and William Pryor.

Graham said he would “respect the Court’s decision” in Obergefell v. Hodges (same-sex marriage), and said he would focus his effort on “protecting the religious liberties and freedom of conscience for those Americans that profoundly disagree with today’s decision.”

Graham has stated that the Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC has “gotta be fixed,” and has suggested a constitutional amendment to address the decision and campaign finance reform.

Graham voted to end racial preferences in college admissions.

He voted for McCain-Feingold’s restrictions on giving to political parties, and recently said he would support a constitutional amendment to restrict so-called super PACs, which enable individuals, businesses, unions, and others to speak without limits about political candidates. He did oppose the DISCLOSE Act in 2010, which would have restricted most independent political speech, and voted against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given Congress unfettered ability to regulate and control money contributed or spent on political speech.

He is co-sponsor of an amendment that would prohibit the physical desecration of the U.S. flag, such as by burning it in protest, and in response to an incident in 2011 where a Florida pastor proposed burning copies of the Koran Graham issued a statement saying, “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war. During World War II, we had limits on what you could do if it inspired the enemy. (We should do) anything we can to push back here in America against acts like this that put our troops at risk.”

On religious liberty Graham supports the right of employers not to include contraceptive coverage in health plans if doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs.

He was a co-sponsor of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.  He also co-sponsored the Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999, which, among other things, “transferred authority for granting waivers of certain federal statutes and regulations from the U.S. Department of Education to state agencies that met certain requirements.”

Graham opposed the Common Core education standards on 10th Amendment grounds and introduced a Senate resolution that would have allowed each state to establish and define its own academic standards and assessments.

Graham has opposed gun control measures, including speaking out against a United Nations treaty that opponents are concerned would infringe on American sovereignty and the right to own firearms. He has been endorsed in his U.S. Senate campaigns by the National Rifle Association (NRA), who cited his support for a bill giving concealed carry permit holders reciprocity with other states that allow concealed carry as well as his opposition to extending background checks to private parties.

He was the lead sponsor in 2013 of an NRA-backed bill that would expand the number of mentally ill individuals prohibited from purchasing firearms.

Graham is pro-life, and is the lead sponsor of a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks. He was the first to sponsor legislation making it a crime to injure or kill an unborn child in the commission of a federal crime, which he introduced in 1999 and finally saw passed in 2004. Endorsing him in 2014 for his re-election to the Senate, the head of South Carolina Citizens for Life referred to him as a “go-to lawmaker on right-to-life issues.” He supports exceptions to abortion bans in the cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is endangered, saying such exceptions are politically necessary.

Although he said he believes marriage is between one man and one woman, and that states should have the authority to set their own policy on marriage, he also said that it would be a “waste of time” to try to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue. He instead favors focusing on religious liberty and protecting the rights of people and groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

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He is generally regarded, however, to be consistent in his views, with his actions in office reflecting his public statements and positions. In 2015 profile, Molly Ball of The Atlantic wrote of Graham that:

“[H]e has also refused to change his ideological stripes. Though his opponents blast him as an election-year conservative, he has been remarkably consistent, saying he believes voters will reward sincerity above opportunism.”

Interestingly, Graham’s most recent rankings by key conservative groups such as Heritage Action and the American Conservative Union are actually lower than his lifetime and earlier ratings, suggesting he does not vote based on political expediency or pressure, but instead based on his own views.

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Early on in his life, following the early death of his parents, Graham adopted his 13-year old sister, Darlene, saying of the decision:

“You assume everything’s going to be like Ozzie and Harriet. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen that way. So here I’ve got a teenager on my hands. She’s turned out great in spite of me. I was probably a nut. I never let her date. I smelled her clothes if she smoked. I listened in on her phone calls. I was probably pressing too hard, just ’cause I felt such responsibility for her. I paid for her college and I did all the financial deals when I got in the Air Force. I thought that was my job and I felt very happy to have done it. She is the light of my life.”

Graham was accused in 1998 of exaggerating or misrepresenting his military service for apparently referring to himself as a veteran of the Desert Shield/Desert Storm campaign (first Iraq War). Graham was called up to active duty for that conflict but remained stateside. Graham had consistently stated he’d been stateside for his call up, however, so there is little reason to think this was more than a poor choice of words, as his duties were directly related to the military campaign.

Graham’s promotion record once he was elected to Congress has also drawn scrutiny, and it appears he may have received preferential treatment in receiving promotions to lieutenant colonel and colonel after he was first sent to Congress, despite putting in relatively little service time after being elected.

In 2011, the CEO of a South Carolina biotech company was indicted of embezzling millions of dollars from federal grants and funneling $31,000 in foreign contributions to Graham’s 2008 re-election campaign. The prosecutor said that Graham had no knowledge of the scheme and cooperated fully in their investigation, although press coverage did note that Graham had helped to secure nearly $20 million in federal grants for the company.

Aside from these relatively minor incidents, Graham has never faced any serious and substantiated allegations of corruption or scandal or of dubious financial dealings while in office.

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One area where he has been particularly clear is on the issue of immigration. Graham has long pushed for comprehensive immigration reform and has generally been opposed in those efforts by many conservatives and tea party activists. Writing about Graham in The Daily Beast, columnist John Avlon called Graham “courageous” for supporting the issue in an election year (2014) where he had much to lose politically. Avlon added:

“Of all the Gang of Eight senators, he was the most unvarnished in his advocacy and he has the most to lose. Immigration reform isn’t exactly a popular agenda item in South Carolina. It has no natural constituency, as in Arizona or Florida. There is no obvious political upside for a senator already viewed as suspect by the Tea Party crowd and facing reelection—and a possible primary fight—in 2014. A lesser public servant would shy away and let others do the heavy lifting, but Graham instead said: ‘I don’t want to stop being a senator to be a senator.’”

Efforts like this, and his willingness to work to compromise with Democrats, have earned Graham a reputation as someone who is not afraid to oppose his own party and interest groups Republicans typically cater to.

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He has frequently shown an ability to work across the aisle, being a member of both the “Gang of 14” (judicial filibusters) and “Gang of 8” (immigration). While he holds no high-profile leadership positions or committee chairs, he is widely regarded as a leader on issues related to national security and defense. That said, there is no signature legislative achievement to Graham’s name.

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Graham has faced few significant political electoral challenges in his career, winning most of his contests by double-digit margins. His most recent re-election to the U.S. Senate was his closest contested race, where he defeated Democrat challenger Brad Hutto by 5 points.

Graham’s Senate office has a reputation of providing excellent constituent services and paying close attention to South Carolina issues. Writing about Graham in Politico, Manu Raju said he “is known to treat problems at a water treatment facility or an effort to deepen the Port of Charleston every bit as seriously as a debate over Benghazi on the Senate floor.”

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Graham is regarded as a fairly effective communicator as a politician, and is a frequent guest on national news programs, particularly in areas related to national security. He has been described as having a “well-deserved reputation for being good humored,” and his recent speeches before conservative and Republican audiences have been well regarded.

His frequent appearances on television combined with his legal experience have made him a sharp and persuasive debater, and he is likely to benefit from the Republican presidential debates.

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Graham has consistently riled conservatives within the Republican Party with his support for comprehensive immigration reform and government action on global warming. He was also a member of the bipartisan Gang of 14 that brought an end to the Democrats’ obstruction of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, which some conservatives considered to be a retreat from principle because it could have limited Bush’s ability to nominate a conservative to the Supreme Court.

It is likely that these positions will draw challenges from Graham’s political right if he were to seek the presidency.

Graham’s lack of a family will likely be raised by some as an issue in an effort to suggest he can’t relate to the needs of parents. His history of raising his sister after their parents died may be sufficient to put this issue to rest, however.

A relatively spotless record in terms of ethical lapses or personal issues will likely force opponents to focus almost exclusively on his record of being out-of-step with conservatives on many issues, as well as the lack of a significant legislative accomplishment at which to point. Some have suggested he received preferential treatment in terms of Air Force promotions after being elected to Congress, but as one of only a few candidates who have served in the military it’s unlikely he can be successfully criticized on this issue by someone who has never served.

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Lindsey Graham receives high marks for national security and character and lower marks for effectiveness.

He is generally considered a conservative although many grassroots activists do not see him as such. And, while often referred to as a good communicator, many observers see him as a bit awkward in his style. He has never faced any serious scandal or corruption charge while in office and he has been very successful politically when it pertains to campaigning. But he has no significant successful legislation to which he can point.

Graham scored lower for his positions in favor of climate change legislation, campaign finance limits, and seeking compromise with Democrats on the issue of judicial filibusters. He supported the nominations of liberal Supreme Court Justices Kagan and Sotomayor. He also supported the decision to uphold Obamacare, and he has a poor record when it comes to protecting political speech.

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Graham’s inability to crack the upper tiers of Republican candidates can be seen in his lack of fundraising. An intense hawk on national security, he might be too focused. Graham can be charming but lacks serious charisma; his attempts at charm project an awkward personality weakness from which he probably cannot recover.

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