Climate bill hangs by a thread

CLIMATE BILL HANGS BY A THREAD…. Tomorrow was going to be a critical day for a new climate/energy bill. The tri-partisan plan — crafted by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) — had been shaped over the course of several months, and its proponents were finally going to unveil the details at a Capitol Hill event.

Its prospects looked murky, but much of the necessary legwork had already been done — the White House was on board with the provisions, and many business leaders, whose support would be critical, were poised to endorse the effort.

Late yesterday, Lindsey Graham signaled his intention to walk away, and in the process, may have killed the legislation.

In a move that may derail a comprehensive climate change and energy bill in the Senate, one of the measure’s central architects, Senator Lindsey Graham, has issued an angry protest over what he says are Democratic plans to give priority to a debate over immigration policy.

Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said in a sharply worded letter on Saturday that he would no longer participate in negotiations on the energy bill, throwing its already cloudy prospects deeper into doubt. […]

In his letter to his two colleagues, Mr. Graham said that he was troubled by reports that the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and the White House were planning to take up an immigration measure before the energy bill…. Mr. Graham said that any Senate debate on the highly charged subject of illegal immigration would make it impossible to deal with the difficult issues involved in national energy and global warming policy.

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to Graham’s concerns — all things considered, it makes more sense to me to tackle climate before immigration — but his tactical demands are a little over the top. In effect, Graham is saying, “Do things in the order I prefer or I’ll kill both major legislative initiatives.”

Specifically, Graham wrote in his letter, “I will not allow our hard work to be rolled out in a manner that has no chance of success.” He will, however, walk away from months of negotiations, guaranteeing that his hard work has no chance of success. In other words, Graham is afraid a push on immigration reform might undermine his climate/energy bill, so he’s decided to undermine his climate/energy bill.

I’ve heard of smarter strategies.

There are at least some efforts underway to save the bill. Reid office issued a statement last night saying the Democratic leadership is committed to both initiatives, and the climate/energy bill “could be next” on the legislative calendar “if it’s ready.”

As for the administration, Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, also issued a statement, urging Graham not to walk away from his own effort.

Nevertheless, the announcement scheduled for tomorrow has been “indefinitely postponed.”