Lindsey Graham pulls away the football, again

LINDSEY GRAHAM PULLS AWAY THE FOOTBALL, AGAIN…. For the better part of a year, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) worked with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on a comprehensive climate/energy bill. It was poised to be a pretty strong package, that struck a grand bargain between parties and interests. The result would be a tri-partisan bill that would combat global warming, create new jobs in a growing industry, and reduce the deficit.

But like Lucy, who always pulls away the football and puts Charlie Brown on his ass, Graham has a nasty habit of betrayal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., [yesterday] said he would vote against a climate change strategy he helped develop with Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., citing new changes that further restrict offshore oil and gas drilling and the bill’s impact on the transportation sector.

He said neither that plan nor any energy and climate strategy will get 60 Senate votes this year. Instead, he said, lawmakers next year should work on a strategy that only places a cap on electric utilities while lowering emissions from the transportation sector through increased fuel efficiency and other means that do not involve placing a cap on the sector’s carbon emissions.

Graham said his advice to lawmakers is to “start over and scale down your ambitions.” … The statement today is the furthest Graham has gone in divorcing himself from the substance and timing of the efforts of Kerry, Lieberman and other Democrats to pass climate and energy policy this year.

Graham added that the BP oil spill disaster makes this a bad time for policymakers to tackle energy policy. Try to wrap your head around that one.

When Graham first started moving away from his own bill a couple of months ago, plenty of smart, credible observers seemed to think the South Carolinian was still working in good faith, and was arguing from a reasonable position. I disagreed. Yesterday, these observers started coming around — Jon Chait, for example, said he “greatly overestimated” Lindsey Graham’s “sincerity.”

Let this be a lesson to all of us: if something important needs to get done, and it’s entirely dependent on Graham working seriously towards a policy goal in good faith, prepare to be sorely disappointed.

At this point, Graham is objecting to energy policy provisions he helped write, and his comments on the kind of proposal he’d like to see are bordering on gibberish. Either Graham has no idea what he’s talking about after spending months crafting a comprehensive bill, or he’s just wildly spinning a ridiculous rationalization for abandoning his own effort.

The consequences of Graham’s betrayal are severe. As the need for a comprehensive climate/energy bill becomes overwhelmingly obvious, a Republican filibuster will likely kill all legislative attempts. With Dems likely to lose seats in November, the next attempt to pass meaningful legislation is likely several years away.

It’s very hard to be even a little optimistic under the circumstances.