Success or failure for Obama Presidency hangs in the balance
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) abandoned his effort to push a climate and energy bill Saturday, saying he would continue only if Democratic leaders promise to relinquish plans to bring up immigration legislation first.
Graham’s departure likely dooms any chance of passing a climate bill this year. He is the sole Republican working with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) on a compromise proposal that they had planned to unveil Monday.
This WashPost story is a huge deal. If the White House loses Graham that would certainly kill any chances of a climate bill this year.
And Obama cannot possibly be a successful president from a historical perspective if he doesn’t have a domestic climate bill, since that would essentially doom the chance for an international climate deal. Who really is going to care about accomplishments in banking regulations and immigration when they are suffering through Hell and High Water? At least tens of millions of more Americans will have health care — because they are certainly going to need it (see “Global Warming Is A Medical Emergency”: Hellish heatwaves to harm health of millions).
History does not forgive us our national mistakes because they are explicable in terms of our domestic politics.”¦ A nation which excuses its own failures by the sacred untouchableness of its own habits can excuse itself into complete disaster.
That would go double or triple for catastrophic climate change.
And yes, I’m now putting this on the White House — Tom Friedman labels the WH move a “travesty” [and just said on Face the Nation, “Right now in Beijing they are high fiving each other because it means America” can’t move on clean energy for another few years and they can move ahead.]
From the campaign through Copenhagen until now, comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs legislation was always said to be one of the president’s top three priorities, along with the economy and health care.
Indeed, Obama made clear time and time again that comprehensive climate and energy legislation was key to sustainable economic growth and job creation:
Obama at MIT: “From China to India, from Japan to Germany, nations everywhere are racing to develop new ways to producing and use energy. The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation”¦. There are going to be those who make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary.”
Like no President before him “” indeed, like no major U.S. politician since Robert F. Kennedy “” he has stated again and again that our current path is unsustainable and doomed to fail, using language very similar to the global economy is a Ponzi scheme metaphor:
- “The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline.” (4/22)
- “We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand.” (4/14)
- “We can let the jobs of tomorrow be created abroad, or we can create those jobs right here in America and lay the foundation for our lasting prosperity.” (3/19)
We will find out in the next few days whether he was serious or whether that was all just pretty speechmaking.
It takes five weeks for the EPA to do the analysis on the bill when it is turned over to them, which is just about the time it will probably take to get the financial services bill passed.
There’s plenty of time to do immigration after energy and climate, especially since the conventional wisdom is that the immigration bill has a far, far less plausible chance of becoming law. Tom Friedman writes Sunday,
This critical piece of energy legislation was supposed to be unveiled by the three senators on Monday, but it was suddenly postponed late Saturday because of Senator Graham’s fury that the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and the White House were planning to take up a highly controversial immigration measure before the energy bill.
If this is what the Obama administration is doing “” to score a few cheap political points with Hispanics “” it is a travesty.
The WashPost also reports:
According to sources, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) decided to cancel a news conference planned for Monday that would have unveiled their climate and energy plan.
“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,” Kerry said in a statement. “The White House and Senate Leadership have told us … that this is the year for action, and until they tell us otherwise we’re pressing forward.”
In an interview Saturday evening, Graham said that he had become convinced that the White House and Senate Democratic leaders were not fully committed to focusing on climate and energy legislation this year.
“What was hard has become impossible,” Graham said, referring to the new push for immigration legislation. “I don’t mind doing hard things. I just don’t want to do impossible and stupid things.”
At least we will get to see people’s real priorities as this plays out. The letter from Graham states (full letter here):
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….
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….
Lindsey O. Graham
United States Senator
Note: This post will be update throughout the day.
- Stick a fork in the energy-only bill: Lindsey Graham (R-SC) slams push for a “half-assed energy bill”
- Tim Wirth: “The president should deliver a major speech on climate change to the American public, using all the props and charts he can muster to bring the message home. The public interest requires it.”