Graham calls for a pause on talks for energy and climate bill

The Senate should pause its efforts to pass a bipartisan energy bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Friday.

Graham, one of three negotiators on a compromise energy and climate bill, said that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had made passing such legislation more difficult and urged his colleagues to re-evaluate their approach.

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"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," Graham said Friday in a statement. "In light of this, I believe it would be wise to pause the process and reassess where we stand."

Graham is at odds with colleagues who have said the oil spill should spur Congress to act on an energy and climate bill, saying that the situation in the Gulf, combined with uncertainty over how Senate Democratic leaders would proceed on immigration reform, makes achieving 60 votes for the legislation more difficult.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) had been working with Graham on the compromise, but the South Carolina Republican suspended his support because Democratic leaders plan to push immigration legislation this year. Graham claims this will spark a divisive political battle that will sink prospects for the climate measure.

Graham called passing a bill "impossible in the current environment," pointing to growing Democratic opposition to offshore drilling, a component of the compromise, in the wake of the Gulf spill.

"I believe there could be more than 60 votes for this bipartisan concept in the future," he said. "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."

Kerry and Lieberman have said they hope to roll out their legislation next week — even without Graham — though Lieberman said Thursday that the pair is taking a "second look" at offshore drilling provisions.

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