Reid signals energy and climate first, but immigration standoff with Graham remains

The climate bill was slated to be unveiled Monday, but the rollout was scuttled when Graham suspended his backing for the initiative over the weekend.

Graham has indicated that he won’t back the climate and energy effort as long as immigration remains on the table.

Reid called both immigration and climate vital priorities. Immigration is also a priority for Graham, but he accuses Democratic leaders of proceeding haphazardly and for election-year political reasons.

Asked if a climate and energy measure needs a Republican co-sponsor, Reid said that would be up to Kerry, Lieberman and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.). Bingaman chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which approved a broad package of energy measures last June.

And asked whether moving forward on a climate measure would be impossible without Graham, Reid replied “no, I don’t think so.”

But Graham’s support is considered a critical piece of securing what advocates of climate legislation believe will be a handful of GOP votes needed to offset the opposition of some centrist Democrats.

Immigration has shot up the Senate agenda, and the issue is in the spotlight due to a new Arizona law that gives police new powers to stop and demand documentation from people the believe may be in the country illegally.

The law has prompted criticism from Latino groups and other activists who call it an assault on civil liberties.

Reid attacked what he called a contradictory GOP stance on immigration. He noted Republicans have said the Arizona law is a response to the failure of Congress to address immigration, but accused them of blocking progress on Capitol Hill.

“Lindsey Graham and his friends, including the senators from Arizona, are blaming this on Washington. That is a little strange math,” Reid said. “They want us to do something about it, but they won’t let us do something about it.”