By Ben Geman - 04/24/10 07:14 PM EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Saturday that he will be “unable to move forward” with the upcoming climate and energy bill he’s crafting if Democratic leaders push ahead with plans to move immigration legislation.
Graham’s declaration could halt or unravel the months-long effort to craft a compromise climate measure he has undertaken with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). The measure is slated to be unveiled Monday.
“Unless their 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,” he added.
A spokesman for Graham said the letter was sent to business, religious and conservation leaders that have been working with the senator on the energy measure.
“I am very disappointed with this turn of events and believe their decision flies in the face of commitments made weeks ago to Senators Kerry, Lieberman and me. I deeply regret that election year politics will impede, if not derail, our efforts to make our nation energy independent,” the letter continues.
Graham has worked to craft immigration legislation with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) but accuses Democrats of rushing ahead on the issue haphazardly.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reacted to Graham’s letter Saturday by declaring that immigration and energy reform are "equally vital" to U.S. economic and national security.
He said a sweeping energy measure might be the next big item before the Senate, which is currently debating Wall Street reform legislation, and suggested that immigration legislation is far from ready for action by the full body.
“As I have said, I am committed to trying to enact comprehensive clean energy legislation this session of Congress. Doing so will require strong bipartisan support and energy could be next if it's ready,” Reid said in a prepared statement. “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 praised Graham’s work on both issues but then warned that “I will not allow him 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.
Graham's letter – which echoes his criticism of the immigration push Thursday – attacks efforts to address the issue in a “hurried, panicked manner” and calls it “nothing more than a cynical political ploy.”
“I know from my own personal experience the tremendous amounts of time, energy, and effort that must be devoted to this issue to make even limited progress,” the letter states.
A spokesperson for Kerry could not be immediately reached for comment about whether the planned Monday unveiling of the bill will go forward.
Here’s Graham’s whole letter:
April 24, 2010
I want to bring to your attention what appears to be a decision by the Obama Administration and Senate Democratic leadership to move immigration instead of energy. Unless their 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.
Recent press reports indicating that immigration -- not energy -- is their priority have not been repudiated. This has destroyed my confidence that there will be a serious commitment and focus to move energy legislation this year. All of the key players, particularly the Senate leadership, have to want this debate as much as we do. This is clearly not the case.
I am very disappointed with this turn of events and believe their decision flies in the face of commitments made weeks ago to Senators Kerry, Lieberman and me. I deeply regret that election year politics will impede, if not derail, our efforts to make our nation energy independent.
I truly appreciate Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and their staff for the long hours of work. They have been tremendous partners who have negotiated in good faith and stood ready to make the tough choices necessary to bring forward a comprehensive energy bill.
I continue to believe our nation's reliance on ever-increasing amounts of foreign oil poses a direct threat to our national security and economic well-being. I know we can create thousands of jobs by pushing for a renaissance in nuclear power, expanded offshore drilling, and unleashing America's innovative spirit. One only needs to look to China and Europe, where 21st Century clean energy jobs are currently being created while we fail to act.
Like you, I share the belief that becoming energy independent and better stewards of our environment are complementary -- not competing -- standards. I was greatly looking forward to the opportunity to address these issues on the floor of the U.S. Senate as we pushed energy independence legislation forward into law. But it appears President Obama and the Senate Democratic leadership have other more partisan, political objectives in mind.
Moving forward on immigration -- in this hurried, panicked manner -- is nothing more than a cynical political ploy. I know from my own personal experience the tremendous amounts of time, energy, and effort that must be devoted to this issue to make even limited progress.
In 2007, we spent hundreds of hours over many months with President Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and nearly every member of the U.S. Senate searching for a way to address our nation’s immigration problems. Unlike this current “effort,” it was a good-faith attempt to address a very difficult national issue.
Some of the major provisions we embraced in 2007 -- such as creation of a Virtual Fence using cameras, motion detectors and other technological devices to protect our borders -- have been scrapped for the time. Other issues we found agreement on at the time, such as a temporary guest worker program, have unraveled over the past three years.
Expecting these major issues to be addressed in three weeks -- which appears to be their current plan based upon media reports -- is ridiculous. It also demonstrates the raw political calculations at work here.
Let’s be clear, a phony, political effort on immigration today accomplishes nothing but making it exponentially more difficult to address in a serious, comprehensive manner in the future.
Again, I truly appreciate the tremendous amount of time you have committed to the effort to make our nation more energy independent. I look forward to continuing to work with you so that when the U.S. Senate finally decides to address this issue we will be prepared for battle and confident of a successful outcome in the effort to make our nation energy independent once and for all.
Lindsey O. Graham
United States Senator