Moving forward on a climate bill — sans Graham

MOVING FORWARD ON A CLIMATE BILL — SANS GRAHAM…. The tri-partisan climate/energy bill in the Senate, months in the making, was supposed to be unveiled last week, on April 26. At the 11th hour, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) backed out, blamed it on Democrats’ renewed interest in his bipartisan immigration bill, and imperiled the entire effort.

Today, the two senators Graham had been working with — Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) — announced that they’re moving forward without him.

Kerry and Lieberman released a statement today announcing their plan to roll out a climate and energy bill on Wednesday.

In their statement, they seemed to imply that events of the last few weeks had helped the climate bill’s prospects: “We are more encouraged today that we can secure the necessary votes to pass this legislation this year in part because the last weeks have given everyone with a stake in this issue a heightened understanding that as a nation, we can no longer wait to solve this problem which threatens our economy, our security and our environment.”

That sounds entirely sensible, but it may not be realistic. As we talked about the other day, getting a climate/energy bill through the Senate was going to be tough under normal circumstances. Now, in the wake of the BP oil spill disaster, it’s even trickier — key Dems now insist drilling be taken off the table, while Republicans and Democratic industry allies (Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, for example) now insist they won’t even consider a bill unless it includes plenty of drilling.

When the need for a breakthrough on U.S. energy policy should be acutely obvious, the politics has become harder, not easier.

For his part, Graham issued a confusing statement earlier today, arguing that all work on the climate/energy bill he championed should be put on hold because of “the uncertainty of the immigration debate and the consequences of the oil spill.” He specifically rejected the notion that the disaster in the Gulf improves the political prospects of a new energy policy.

What’s less clear to me is exactly what it is Graham thinks policymakers should do right now. The choice has been between climate and immigration, both of which were to see bipartisan reform bills, thanks to Graham’s cooperation. Except, now Graham believes his climate bill should be shelved indefinitely, and he believes his immigration bill shouldn’t move forward.

Maybe Dems should simply thank Graham for his time and stop including him in their governing strategies.