Graham is also among those leading the charge against the nomination of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense secretary, calling it an "in your face" pick, and "incredibly controversial." He reluctantly voted for the recent "fiscal cliff" deal, but has vowed to oppose raising the debt ceiling next month unless Congress agrees to significant entitlement reforms. He says he will oppose any efforts to pass a new assault-weapons ban.
None of this would be particularly eyebrow-raising – except that in many ways it's a sharp change of direction for Graham. Like his closest Senate ally, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Graham was until fairly recently most often seen as one of those "independent" Republicans who could give his own party more trouble than the opposition. As recently as 2010, a profile in The New York Times magazine described Graham as "contentedly discussing the various fellow South Carolina conservatives who dislike him – Tea Partiers, Constitutionalists, immigration hardliners," and noted that he had apparently logged more White House visits than any other Republican senator (other than, perhaps, Maine's Susan Collins).