The Lexington County Republican Party voted Monday night to censure U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for his support of a massive federal bailout of the banking industry and for supporting a failed immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate that would have given illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
Both the bank bailout and immigration reform were initiated by former President George W. Bush, also a Republican.
The Lexington County GOP is the third county party in S.C. to censure Graham, a Seneca Republican elected in 2002 after U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond retired. A censure is a formal statement of disapproval, and is rare among party operatives.
The Greenville County Republican Party censured Graham over immigration reform. The Charleston County Republican Party censured Graham over his willingness to work with Democrats. Gov. Mark Sanford is the only other high profile Republican in the recent past to get a formal rebuke from the party. Sanford, who faces 37 ethics charges over his travel and campaign spending, was censured over his admission of an extramarital affair and his secret summer disappearance to visit his Argentine lover.
Graham, who has reached across party lines in Washington on military issues and to get judges elected, has been targeted for years by conservative activists within the GOP.
More recently, Graham has drawn the ire of conservatives for teaming with Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry in favor of climate change legislation. Graham is supporting a measure - called cap and trade - which would put new emissions restrictions on businesses while giving industry flexibility to meet the new efficiency goals. Conservatives see the legislation as a tax.
The Lexington County GOP resolution says that Graham "reinterates his support for government intervention in the private sector in direct contradiction to the Republican principle of free markets."
The friction has not hurt Graham at the ballot box. South Carolina's senior U.S. senator overwhelmingly won reelection in 2008. Graham hardly campaigned in South Carolina, instead spending most of his time traveling the country to help the presidential campaign of his friend U.S. Sen. John McCain.