Reid Hints Climate Bill to Move Before Immigration

Posted April 24, 2010 at 4:40pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Saturday sought to quell growing anger from environmentalists and liberal Democrats frustrated by his decision to focus on comprehensive immigration reform at the likely expense of climate legislation.

In a statement released by his office Saturday, Reid not only backed away from hints that immigration could preempt the climate measure, but he also committed to putting the immigration reform bill through the Judiciary Committee before floor consideration, a process that could add weeks to the debate and significantly hurt a bipartisan compromise.

“Immigration and energy reform are equally vital to our economic and national security and have been ignored for far too long. As I have said, I am committed to trying to enact comprehensive clean energy legislation this session of Congress … I have also said we will try to pass comprehensive immigration reform. This too will require bipartisan support and significant committee work that has not yet begun,” Reid said in the statement.

Earlier this week, Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed that there was a “moral imperative” to pass immigration reform this year — a decision that would almost certainly kill climate legislation until next year.

That decision has angered Democrats and environmentalists, who see this year as their best chance to pass a climate bill given the deep electoral losses Democrats could likely suffer this fall.

Even some Republicans — most notably Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) — have questioned the decision. Graham is working with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) on climate legislation at the same time he’s sought to craft a bipartisan immigration bill with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

In a letter sent to energy stakeholders Saturday, Graham warned that a decision by Reid to pursue immigration rather than climate would mean an end to his work with Kerry and Lieberman.

“Unless [Reid’s] plan substantially changes this weekend, I will be unable to move forward on energy independence legislation at this time. I will not allow our hard work to be rolled out in a manner that has no chance of success,” Graham said in the letter.

But in his statement Saturday, Reid sought to lay the blame for any talk of only completing one of the two contentious issues on Graham — despite the fact that realities like a short legislative calendar, a Supreme Court nomination on the docket and a pressing “jobs agenda” are to blame.

“I will not allow [Graham] to play one issue off of another, and neither will the American people. They expect us to do both, and they will not accept the notion that trying to act on one is an excuse for not acting on the other,” Reid said in his statement.

A Graham aide declined to offer a response to Reid’s charges.