Graham: Climate bill progress ‘impossible’; Oil spill requires ‘time-out’

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, May 7, 2010 12:11 EDT
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Update: Kerry, Lieberman to press ahead without Graham

Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) announced on Friday that they would press ahead next week with an energy and climate change bill despite losing the support of Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC).

Graham had called on his colleagues earlier on Friday to freeze their efforts on the legislation, citing a feud over immigration and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“I believe it would be wise to pause the process and reassess where we stand,” Graham said, pouring cold water on predictions that he would eventually support the bill.

Graham withdrew two weeks ago from discussions with Democratic Senator John Kerry and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman aimed at crafting a compromise bill to battle greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

The comments seemed to refute Kerry’s recent assertion that Graham would eventually back the legislation even if he was no longer part of the talks.

“A serious debate on energy legislation is significantly compromised with the cynical politics of comprehensive immigration reform hanging over the Senate,” said Graham, a key player on both issues.

“In addition to immigration, we now have to deal with a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which creates new policy and political challenges not envisioned in our original discussions,” he said.

Graham said that he disagreed with colleagues who reacted to the spill by saying that a climate change bill was “dead on arrival” if it included an expansion of offshore drilling, seen as a key vote-getter for the proposal.

Excerpt from Graham’s statement:

When it comes to our nation’s policy on energy independence and pollution control, I don’t believe any American finds the status quo acceptable. Many senators from both parties have stated that Congress should set energy and carbon pollution policy, not the EPA. I could not agree more. Therefore, we should move forward in a reasoned, thoughtful manner and in a political climate which gives us the best chance at success. Regrettably, in my view, this has become impossible in the current environment.

I believe there could be more than 60 votes for this bipartisan concept in the future. But there are not nearly 60 votes today and I do not see them materializing until we deal with the uncertainty of the immigration debate and the consequences of the oil spill.

The New York Times notes that Graham said in an interview on Thursday, “The oil spill hasn’t made things easier, it’s made things harder. And when you look at the number of senators who’ve dug in; one senator said, ‘Energy-climate bill dead on arrival’ because of the drilling provisions.”

Graham added, “I think we need to have a time-out here. Find out what happened with the oil spill. Figure out where we’re going to go on immigration politics and make a reasoned decision. Next year, the EPA begins to regulate carbon. So the issue never goes away. I’m not interested in putting a bill out and there’s no chance of being successful. Right now, with the oil spill, it’s pretty hard to talk about the future of oil exploration until you know what happened.”

(with RAW STORY reporting)

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