Immigration Puts Senate Climate Bill in Limbo

Posted April 24, 2010 at 9:02pm

Plans to introduce a bipartisan climate change bill on Monday have collapsed in the wake of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) public statements indicating comprehensive immigration reform – and not energy issues – would be the chamber’s next big legislative fight.

Although Reid ultimately sought to back away from that position Saturday afternoon, by Saturday night Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) had announced a “temporary” cancellation of his plan to unveil a climate and energy bill he has been working on for months with Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) after Graham dropped out.

In a statement, Kerry said he and his colleagues remain hopeful they can bring the bill up this year.
“We all believe that this year is our best and perhaps last chance for Congress to pass a comprehensive approach. We believe that we had reached such an agreement and were excited to announce it on Monday, but regrettably external issues have arisen that force us to postpone only temporarily,” he said.

Although an aide to Graham did not respond to a request for comment, Kerry left little doubt that his decision to back out was directly related to Reid’s position on immigration.

“Joe and I deeply regret that he feels immigration politics have gotten in the way and for now prevent him from being engaged in the way he intended. But we have to press forward. Lindsey has helped to build an unprecedented coalition of stakeholders from the environmental community and the industry who have been prepared to stand together behind a proposal. That can’t change. We can’t allow this moment to pass us by,” Kerry said.

“Joe and I will continue to work together and are hopeful that Lindsey will rejoin us once the politics of immigration are resolved. We will continue to work and we will do everything necessary to be ready when the moment presents itself. 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,” he added.

In his own statement, Lieberman thanked Graham for his efforts and lamented the influence of what he called “partisan politics” on the process. “I want to thank Sen. Graham for his contribution to writing the American Power Act and I regret that allegations of partisan politics will prevent us from introducing the bill on Monday as planned,” Lieberman said.

Earlier Saturday, Graham had sent out a letter to stakeholders in the climate process, warning that an apparent decision by Reid to move immigration — which would effectively kill the prospects for energy legislation this year — was threatening his participation in the climate talks.

Reid ultimately responded with a statement indicating energy could end up moving before immigration — while accusing Graham of trying to “play one issue off of another.”