Graham leaves climate compromise effort to Kerry, Lieberman

US Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC) quit discussions with Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) on compromise climate change legislation after Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) would not agree to consider the issue before immigration reform.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 27 -- US Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC) quit discussions with Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) on compromise climate change legislation after Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) would not agree to consider the issue before immigration reform.

“Immigration and energy reform are equally vital to our economic and national security and have been ignored for far too long,” Reid said on Apr. 24. Noting that he wants to pass bipartisan bills addressing both issues, Reid said, “I appreciate the work of Sen. Graham on both and understand the tremendous pressure he is under from members of his own party not to work with us on either measure. But I will not allow him to play one issue off of another, and neither will the American people.”

Graham, who has been advocating wider oil and gas activity on the US Outer Continental Shelf, announced his withdrawal that day. Kerry and Lieberman immediately said in separate statements that they would try to carry on without him.

“I remain deeply committed to this effort which I have worked on for more than 20 years. We have no choice but to act this year,” said Kerry. “The American people deserve better than for the Senate to defer this debate or settle for an energy-only bill that won’t get the job done.”

Lieberman thanked Graham for his efforts and expressed regret over his departure. “I know from all of our work over the past year that [he] shares our commitment to this bill that will create American jobs, move us closer to energy independence, and reduce pollution,” he said. “I look forward to Sen. Graham rejoining our efforts after we work through the concerns that are preventing us from advancing a cause the three of us believe in so deeply.”

Started last fall
The three had been scheduled to announce their proposal on Apr. 26 after coming together last fall to reach a compromise that would be an alternative to climate change bills that passed the House and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but which faced strong opposition on the Senate floor. They met with representatives from business associations, including some from the oil and gas industry.

But there were signs that their effort might be faltering before Graham lodged his protest with Reid because Kerry and Lieberman reportedly wanted to place a fee on industries’ greenhouse gas emissions. Some groups said this amounted to nothing more than a new tax and fiercely opposed the idea.

“Sen. Graham has spent nearly 6½ months negotiating behind close doors with big business, special interests, and rent-seeking lobbyists to increase the price of 85% of the energy Americans use daily,” American Energy Alliance Pres. Thomas J. Pyle said on Apr. 26. “The senator should be congratulated today for apparently backing out of this job-killing legislation.”

The Senate could possibly turn to a wide-ranging energy bill that the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved last year to address issues outside climate change. But Kerry and Lieberman did not appear ready to give up.

Kerry said they would continue their efforts and expressed hope that Graham would return “once the politics of immigration are resolved.” Kerry said, “The White House and Senate Leadership have told us from the start that this is the year for action, and until they tell us otherwise we’re pressing forward.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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