The 59-year-old, who has been in Congress for two decades, badly wants to tackle entitlement and immigration reform, build the Keystone Pipeline and restrict abortion rights.
But he also wants to change the way that the executive branch works. Graham expressed frustration with the way presidents in both parties “micromanage the Cabinet from the White House.” He praised Ronald Reagan for giving leeway and deference to secretaries like George Shultz.
“Now you have 35-year-old staffers running every agency of the government,” he complained. “I’d try to break that model.”
He would want some Democrats on his team and some people from the private sector. This, he believes, would help get buy-in for big changes.
“You don’t know what the world is going to look like in January 2017,” he said by phone as he traversed Iowa late last week. “Something like Simpson-Bowles has to get started. One of the first priorities is to put the infrastructure for something like Simpson-Bowles in place.”
Simpson-Bowles was a deficit reduction plan released by a national commission that was co-chaired by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former Bill Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. The far-reaching reform package, a compromise that grew from the bipartisan group, drew vocal enemies on the right and left in 2010 because it included a mix of higher taxes and entitlement cuts.
Other things Graham would like to do on Day One—
Rescind Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration “with the understanding that we’re going to get a comprehensive bill to replace them”: Graham was part of the Gang of 8, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), which authored the comprehensive package that passed the Senate in 2013. He still believes comprehensive reform is necessary but thinks Obama poisoned the well with unilateral executive action.
His first phone call would be to Benjamin Netanyahu to reassure the Israelis that “things are going to change.” Then he would call around to other traditional American allies, including the Gulf states.
Reinstate the Mexico City policy: Graham, the lead sponsor of a 20-week abortion ban about to be considered by the Senate, doesn’t want non-governmental organizations spending U.S. government money to promote abortion overseas. Such an order was in place under George W. Bush, as it has been for every Republican since Reagan first implemented it. But Bill Clinton and Barack Obama each rescinded the order during their first days in office.
Sign an order to allow the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. He would unveil a broader “energy independence initiative that has an environmental component.” He supports land conservation and wants to “deal with carbon emissions” but “with something other than a cap-and-trade approach.”
During his first 100 days—
Stop prosecuting enemy combatants in U.S. courts: Graham’s Justice Department would not try terrorists in U.S. courts, he promises. He would try to come up with a new detention strategy within his first three months. Whether that includes the prison at Guantanamo Bay he’s not sure. “I would stop the criminalization of war,” he said.
End the sequester for the military: “If it hasn’t been replaced, I’d fully replace the sequester with closed loopholes and some entitlement reform.”