Lindsey Graham says, “yeah,” there’s a chance for climate to move forward this year

On the bipartisan bill he wrote with Kerry and Lieberman: “I really believe in this product. I think it’s a damn good solution.”

WashPost‘s Ezra Klein has posted an interview with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about the immigration and climate bills.  Since my Monday post, it’s been hard to tell whether the Senator has been principled or petulant — or perhaps a bit of both.

I’ll excerpt the parts of his interview with Klein about the climate bill and you can decide:

EK: You told Talking Points Memo that you would filibuster your own climate change bill if immigration moves this year.

LG: Yeah, I was asked a question. They said, “You would vote against your own bill?” And I said yes. I care equally about immigration and climate change. But if you stack them together this year you’ll compromise climate and energy. You’ll compromise my ability to get votes on climate change. When I told everyone I would do climate, in fact, I was assured we also wouldn’t be doing immigration….

EK: So what allows climate to move forward now? What do you need to hear from Reid?LG: Here’s the problem with climate. Do you have any chance of bringing it up and getting 60 votes in this environment? There’s a controversial provision in the transportation section. We have done as good a job as we can to get oil and gas companies to pay for their pollution. Some of that cost will be passed onto consumers. But it’s not a gas tax. I need Harry Reid to say I agree with you. I support that. I won’t introduce a bill and have the majority leader, who I have less than a strong bond with, say, “I can’t support that gas tax.” There was also a Fox News article where the White House said they couldn’t support Graham’s gas-tax gambit. I will not let this get blamed on me. It would be the worst thing in the world to take the one Republican working with you and make him own the one thing you don’t like.

I must say this is a semi-lame excuse.  First, this was a Fox News White House blog report!  Presumably one can’t entirely trust them to get the story exactly right.  It might be the case that there are people in the administration who are not thrilled at going forward with the climate bill and might have said something like what the story says.

BUT the story clearly quotes a White House spokesperson on the record saying “The Senators don’t support a gas tax, and neither does the White House.”  What else is there to say?

EK: So what you need isn’t just an assurance on immigration. It’s an assurance that if you’re going to do the dangerous things on climate reform, you won’t be hung out to dry on it.

LG: Right. Ask yourself: Why did they leak the story to Fox News? That told me they weren’t committed to this issue. Why let a story start on a venue that would hurt your partner the most?

Again, since when do people in the White House “leak” stories to Fox News?  LG ain’t making a compelling case here.

EK: Have you asked the White House?

LG: Yeah. They say, “Oh, we didn’t do it.” And it’s true: Rahm and David didn’t. But somebody involved in energy and climate there did. They’ve always worried about being in a bad spot on this. So someone pretty clever said, “Okay, we’re going to get on the record against this.”

Uhh, how about three other theories.  First, Fox News basically spun this non-story up out of nothing.  Second, maybe they spoke to somebody who doesn’t really follow the issue closely, and doesn’t realize all the ins and outs about what you all are doing in the transportation sector.  Third, maybe they spoke to somebody who doesn’t want a climate bill, a view that doesn’t represent that of the President or Rahm.

EK: Do these assurances go in the other direction, though? You want to make sure the Democrats don’t leave you hanging on this. But they’re worried that this bill comes out, and you’re with them, but 40 other Republicans are hammering them for supporting what they’ll call a gas tax, cap-and-tax.

LG: This is exactly what they’re going to say. I have never suggested they won’t. And they’ll say it about me, too. So we have to hold hands so I can make a credible argument, alongside business, saying it’s not a gas tax. But you can’t make this into my idea alone. It wasn’t my idea.

EK: Do you think there’s a chance for climate to move forward this year?

LG: Yeah.

EK: And for more Republican support on it?

LG: Maybe if business gets involved. It’s all about business. I can say I changed the face of the debate. This is no longer about economy-wide cap-and-trade. The business community is on-board with this proposal and they were against Waxman-Markey. I’ll sit down with my colleagues: If you believe we need more domestic energy supply, we’ve got offshore drilling. We preempt the EPA from regulating carbon. That’s a big get for business. About 80 percent or 90 percent of our caucus believes nuclear power is the way to go. We triple the current program of loan guarantees, do regulatory reform to make building plants easier. T. Boone Pickens’s plan is in here.

And what do we give the other side? A cap on emissions from utilities. It takes four years to come into play so they have time. On the transportation side, we take them out of cap-and-trade but they pay a fee, it’s their idea this fee, and the money helps you solve the overall problem. It goes into the transportation trust fund, or goes back to the consumer, or to business people, because that’s where all the money goes. The money will be passed on just like the cost of cleaning up an oil slick is passed on. It could be up to 15 cents a gallon, but not for many years. I really believe in this product. I think it’s a damn good solution.

Hard to know exactly where this is going to go.  It’s pretty clear that both the President and Reid doubt a bill could make it to the Senate floor even by the election.  So I remain somewhat hopeful Graham will join the effort before the bill gets back from EPA analysis in June.

16 Responses to Lindsey Graham says, “yeah,” there’s a chance for climate to move forward this year

  1. Bill Waterhouse says:

    More than a little confusing. LG wants Reid to give him political cover? LG wants to “hold hands” w/Dems and big energy to say it’s not a tax, but it’s OK for other Reps to attack Dems for imposing a tax? If the bill passes before the election is LG going to defend Dem candidates on this issue in Nov? Forcing Dems to hold hands with big energy is hardly a winning Dem campaign strategy. Potential result from passage of the bill is election of more conservative Reps who amend the bill to weaken it more after the election.

    Joe, please tell me I’m wrong.

  2. geo says:

    “It’s okay for other Reps to attack Dems. . . ” is the wrong paradigm. It’s predictable for people who are determined to vote against the bill to attack proponents (including LG) on any grounds they can whip up.

    That’s not right, wrong or indifferent. That just is. The point is, do you want LG voting for the bill or not? He’s not going to attack Dems on that point (and he says so). He’s just asking that Dems not attack him on it as if somehow that particular part of the legislation was his idea and demand for his support. The man is putting himself in a very uncomfortable spot –it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable that he require his new partners to treat him like a partner rather than try to use him for political cover on an issue they know will be unpopular. LG makes it clear he knows he’s going to be attacked by the opponents of the bill on this point –he refuses to allow himself to be attacked by proponents of the bill as well.

    If you don’t care if LG votes for the bill, then feel free to do what you want. And good luck getting to 60 in the Senate.

  3. homunq says:

    Sure, LG has a right to ask that if he’s going to take a risk, he shouldn’t get attacked from both sides. And he has the power to do so. So, fine.

    But I can’t say the same about making any part of this depend in any way on the immigration issue. If he rilly wants to be brave twice but he only has one gonad per year, then fine, that’s his problem, not the Democrats’. And the only other reason he’d mix the issues is if he’s just looking for an excuse to pull away the football – in which case, better now than later.

  4. Raleigh Latham says:

    Harry Reid and President Obama both said that Climate legislation would come well before Immigration, so why is Graham stalling his OWN BILL!? He isn’t up for reelection till 2014, so if he has a soul he should be pushing this NOW!

  5. Chris Dudley says:

    From the description of the bill, it sounds like the wastebasket should be the next stop.

  6. Bill Waterhouse says:

    geo – I’m very concerned about stripping EPA of authority to regulate GHGs. We need continuing EPA authority as backstop in case the climate bill is too weak or it is weakened after Nov by a more conservative Congress. We don’t need to get 60 votes for EPA action – instead the opponents need to get 51 votes (or 60 votes if the Dems play hardball) to stop EPA action.

    The unfolding BP oil spill catastrophe has changed the game for the LG climate bill. Voting for more OCS oil will be a non-starter for a long time, especially if the cleanup takes years and the fisheries are lost. We do desparately need a green energy bill right now for solar and wind power. Dems should go for 60 votes on that and let EPA regulations go forward.

  7. DG says:

    By the gods!!!

    These guys are going to drag their feet to pass mediocre legislation. If it’s anything like the Health Care bill, it’ll be a massive corporate giveaway to the oil companies.

    We really aren’t going to do anything meaningful to stop global warming until it’s too late.

    Unbelievable. People really have no idea how critical this issue is.

  8. mike roddy says:

    I agree with Chris and DG. The climate bill may be better than nothing, but not by a big margin. It sounds like there will be more Republicans in Congress in 2011-12. With cloture, that means another two years are lost, and they would probably even try to weaken or repeal whatever shitty bill gets passed this year.

    We’ll keep screwing around because Congress is corrupt, stupid, and incompetent, and the executive branch is losing sight of its own principles by having to deal with them.

    It probably will take a catastrophe, but even if there is a spate of hurricanes- or Alaska completely melts- fossil fuel spokesmen will be all over TV debating whether these events are part of natural cycles, or saying we can’t afford to stop burning coal.

    It is really a disgrace, and not only in this country (though we’re one of the worst). When the world accelerates into a downward spiral within a few decades, we will have only our greed and stupidity to blame. Too bad we’re taking so much else down with us.

  9. Jim Edelson says:

    Thanks, Joe, for recognizing that Sen. Graham might have been less than the noble warrior you portrayed him to be – when earlier you placed the blame solely in the White House for delay on the climate bill.

    As to the bill, this LG quote scares me. This is an energy business bill, with delayed and vulnerable climate regulations as a side thought.

    LG: And what do we give the other side?

    Basically a few crumbs, that can be repealed. This is an energy bill with a few concessions to the climate lobby. And now that offshore drilling has to be pulled, what chance is there to get this to move?

    I still think we may be better off going with state authority plus the continuing implementation of EPA regulations.

    For instance, it may be better than this plan by LG, which by giving pollution fees to the fossil fuel energy business or the highway trust fund, could exacerbate the climate problem.

    LG: On the transportation side, we take them out of cap-and-trade but they pay a fee, it’s their idea this fee, and the money helps you solve the overall problem. It goes into the transportation trust fund, or goes back to the consumer, or to business people, because that’s where all the money goes. The money will be passed on just like the cost of cleaning up an oil slick is passed on.

    Joe, can you point to the structures of the KGL proposal that you think set the nation up to reduce emissions.

  10. mark says:

    These people are fiddling while rome is burning.

    “I can’t,…. but they said…… I need ….. Rahm…. not the Whitehouse but…..

    Harry…… I have to…..”

    The explanations / excuses of these people for doing nothing, don’t cut it.

    Can’t these people see that there is something more important than themselves, and their “careers” ?

    The system is failing. badly.


    Michael Reynolds shares his experiences from being at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.
    “I just read this executive order copy from the governor of california, Arnold Schwarzenegger about Sea Levels rising, etc.

    It is not out of the question that this method be used to move forward in todays world. It is clear that nothing tangible will happen here in Copenhagen between all the countries to effect climate …change.

    Executive orders on state levels are a tangible move toward something happening now for the people, while we wait and watch and hope for something from the higher levels.”

    – Michael Reynolds.

  12. mike roddy says:

    Interesting thought, Jim Edelson, that Congress may be so hopeless that the states and EPA may be the answer. The fact that even Kerry Lieberman tries to weaken both may tell us all we need to know. The big boys fear agencies and state governments that actually want to accomplish something.

    LG is no knight. More like a tarnished drama queen, who found a way to emerge from the other garrulous gnomes at the Court.

  13. I hear and agree with the frustration of many of the comments, but do not agree yet with the suggestion to throw Federal legislation in the trash can. It might yet be worth it to pass a Federal Climate and Energy Bill, if it includes key parts of the House Bill that would actually work, such as:

    1. Dramatically Improved Energy Building Codes, with strong language to enforce them.
    2. Energy Efficiency Standards for Heavy Machinery and Transportation Equipment, Appliances, & Lighting
    3. Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Standard for utilities; and
    4. Agricultural Carbon Offsets program administered by the USDA.

    These are the “Must Have” provisions of a good bill, because they are so dramatically effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and would actually help average citizens. For discussion of these “Must Have” provisions of a good Climate and Energy Bill see:

    If the new Senate bill has a strong “cap” on greenhouse emissions from utilities this may also be a regulatory approach similar to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Standard. With its broader approach, it may help address the problem of existing coal plants, which a Renewable Energy Standard alone cannot do. So, Senator Graham may be right that a “cap” on utilities may be a big win for climate action, if it is strong enough, and does not pre-empt stronger state requirements.

    Noteworthy is that none of the above measures require significant new fees or taxes, because they are basically regulatory in nature, setting technical standards going forward.

    So why would we need to impose fees or taxes in a new bill? In some industries, carbon fees may move those industries toward action, if they would otherwise use a cheap fuel like coal.

    Oil, however, is not going to be a cheap fuel for very long. Why risk raising gasoline prices, when oil is already projected to go near $200/barrel very soon? This could be political suicide — unless the funds are used to avoid or mitigate the looming oil crisis.

    Here we see the blindness to the true situation, in the off-hand suggestion that the funds be deposited in the Highway Trust Fund. The key instead should be to very quickly implement gasoline-saving new advanced automobiles, high speed rail, mass transit, et. al., so we can give the nation a way out of the upcoming crisis. As Joe has noted, if demand for oil can quickly be cut, the oil price rise (and ruination of U.S. economy from same) can be moderated. “We have to leave oil before oil leaves us”, as IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol has stated.

    It will also be very important to have some carbon penalty to discourage $200/barrel oil leading to uber-carbon-intensive tar sands and oil shale development.

    All of the above measures are what truly needs to be included in a good Climate and Energy Bill. However, Washington works very differently, and we hear little or nothing about the most effective provisions surviving in a Senate Bill. Instead, the darlings of D.C. are large give-away programs to special interests, nuclear power and “Clean Coal”.

  14. Peter Wood says:

    Very difficult to see what will happen with the legislation. It may be that the only way to get climate legislation through is to do something about the filibuster rules.

  15. Leland Palmer says:

    Well, LG was talking BS about the Fox News story.

    Why was he talking BS about the Fox News story?

    Is this a gambit, “playing hard to get” to get an even weaker bill?

    Is he a mole, meant to be a spy inside the enemy camp, privy to the deep strategies of the Energy and Climate Bill’s sponsors?

    I’ve always really disliked LG, but changed my mind when he co-sponsored the Senate climate bill recently.

    During the Bill Clinton impeachment effort, he was one of the leaders of the pack, howling for Clinton’s blood. I’ve always detested him for that, for his lying and posturing during that period, and have always thought he was one of the slickest and best liars around.

    I really hope that he really does have the best interests of the climate bill at heart.

  16. fj2 says:


    “If only Arizona were the Real Problem,” Frank Rich, New York Times, May 1, 2010

    “Even conservatives as seemingly above reproach as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina now invite the nastiest of blow-back if they fail Tea Party purity tests. When Graham had the gall to work with Chuck Schumer of New York on an immigration reform bill, the hard-line Americans for Legal Immigration punished him by spreading rumors about his private life as loudly as possible. Graham has been backing away from supporting the immigration bill ever since.”