In the mother of all flip-flops, Graham rejects his own climate bill, endorses Lugar’s “half-assed energy bill,” which means he “just made the problem worse”

Graham flashback: “The idea of not pricing carbon, in my view, means you’re not serious about energy independence.”

This is the time, this is the Congress, and this is the moment.  So if we retreat and try to just go to the energy only approach which will never yield the legislative results that I want on energy independence, then we just made the problem worse (2/3/10)

In one of the fastest wholesale flip-flops in Senate history, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has  rejected his own climate bill and embraced an energy-only bill — just months after  declaring such an approach intellectually dishonest and worse than meaningless. The Politico reports this morning:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had earlier unsuccessfully negotiated to be part of the Kerry-Lieberman(-Graham) climate change bill, will join Sen. Dick Lugar at a presser at 2:15 p.m. in the Senate Radio-TV gallery today to announce his support of the “Lugar Practical Energy and Climate Plan.” Big mo? Following today’s introduction, more Republicans and Democrats are expected to join the growing momentum for Lugar’s bill.

This in spite of his repeated ridicule of exactly the kind of energy-only bill Lugar is pushing:

You can read about Lugar’s bill here:  Lugar’s energy plan is far too little, far too late. Graham  had become increasingly incoherent in recent weeks (see Bingaman slams Graham’s climate bill incoherence: “I can’t keep up with his various conditions.” (5/24) and Lindsey Graham says, “yeah,” there’s a chance for climate to move forward this year (4/29). And now as CongressDaily, he’s abandoned his own bill:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., today said he would vote against a climate change strategy he helped develop with Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., citing new changes that further restrict offshore oil and gas drilling and the bill’s impact on the transportation sector.

AS Grist just puts it, “Graham says he won’t vote for the climate bill he wrote”:

Yes, you read that right: He says he’s bailing from the bill because, in the wake of one of the greatest offshore oil drilling disasters of all time, a bill devoted to reducing climate pollution does not expand offshore oil drilling enough. Such is the Bizarro World of the U.S. Senate. Graham offers some other justifications for bailing, but as Brad says, they are transparently ridiculous — mostly objecting to provisions of the bill that he was instrumental in shaping. He’s retreating to the now-familiar Republican position of “we need to start over,” which is their way of opposing everything without looking totally nihilistic. He’s also saying some borderline-denialist (but mostly just incoherent) things about climate change, as Kate Sheppard details.

Indeed, Brad Plumer notes:

Again, once upon a time, Graham was saying stuff like this: “All the cars and trucks and plants that have been in existence since the Industrial Revolution, spewing out carbon day-in and day-out, will never convince me that’s a good thing for your children and the future of the planet.” But never say never. Here’s Graham today: “We can have a debate about global warming, and I’m not in the camp that believes man-made emissions are contributing overwhelmingly to global climate change, but I do believe the planet is heating up.” That was fast.

Graham is a one-man flip-flop machine — see Graham says GOP should stop demonizing climate change: You’re risking “your party’s future with younger people” by calling it a “hoax.” Let’s end with some more statements this year showing just how  intellectually hypocritical he has become:

  • “To jump-start nuclear power, wind and solar and the green economy, you’ve got to price carbon,” Graham told reporters today. “How you do it is subject to discussion and open debate. But the idea of not pricing carbon, in my view, means you’re not serious about energy independence. The odd thing is you’ll never have energy independence until you clean up the air, and you’ll never clean up the air until you price carbon.” (1/28)
  • “Six months ago my biggest worry was that an emissions deal would make American business less competitive compared to China,” said Senator Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who has been deeply involved in climate change issues in Congress. “Now my concern is that every day that we delay trying to find a price for carbon is a day that China uses to dominate the green economy.”  He added: “China has made a long-term strategic decision and they are going gang-busters.” (1/31)

And finally Graham’s remarks in early February to Business Advocacy Day for Jobs, Climate & New Energy Leadership in DC:

Every day we wait in this nation China is going to eat our lunch. The Chinese don’t need 60 votes.  I guess they just need 1 guys vote over there – and that guy’s voted.


He has decided to do two things:

first, kind of play footsie with us on emissions control stuff but go like gangbusters when it comes to producing alternative energy.  The solar and wind and battery-powered cars is an amazing thing to watch.  And we’re stuck in neutral here.

So my message to you – you’re up here to advocate – advocate.  Let the Congress know that you want a comprehensive approach to two serious problems.

You don’t have to believe that Iowa is going to become beachfront property to want to clean up carbon.

It is not about polar bears to me, it’s about jobs. I like the polar bears as much as anyone else but I want to create jobs.

If just a fraction of what is being predicted about global warming is true, that’s enough to motivate us all.  But if worse thing you did – as Tony Blair would say – is you provided a cleaner environment, I don’t think you’d go down in history in a bad way.

The key in my view to those who believe we should address carbon pollution is to make sure that the energy initiatives that will get us there are done in a package.

If you break this apart you’ll have a watered down solution on both fronts

health care was big – it was controversial – I didn’t like the bill – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do other hard problems.

If lesson from health care is let’s not do anything hard, then why don’t we all go home, which might be good for the country by the way.

But if we go home, China won’t.

The world is moving, pollution is growing, we’ve got a chance to get ahead and lead.  If we wait too long and if we try to take half measures as the preferred route on all these hard problems they just get worse.

My challenge to you and to myself is to not let this moment pass.  This is the best opportunity I’ve seen in my political lifetime for a Republican and Democrat to do something bold and meaningful.

Why did I get involved in this?  I ask myself that a lot.  I saw an opportunity.  I’ve become convinced that carbon pollution is a bad thing, not a good thing, and it can be dealt with, and we can create jobs

This is the time, this is the Congress, and this is the moment.  So if we retreat and try to just go to the energy only approach which will never yield the legislative results that I want on energy independence, then we just made the problem worse.

What Congress is going to come up here and do all these hard things?
Who are these people in the future?
Because we constantly count on them.
I don’t know who they are.  I’ve yet to find them.

So I guess it falls to me and you.

So let’s do it.

Or not.

26 Responses to In the mother of all flip-flops, Graham rejects his own climate bill, endorses Lugar’s “half-assed energy bill,” which means he “just made the problem worse”

  1. Ben Lieberman says:

    Graham’s failure to support his own bill should embarrass him.

  2. Gregory Norminton says:

    The man is a coward. Plain and simple. He has been spooked by the anti-science hard right and run off with his tail between his legs. Shame on him.

  3. Daniel Ives says:

    Sen. Graham only months ago was poised to be a political hero by standing up to his party in support of meaningful climate legislation. He would have been remembered as a man who was willing to take some flak for doing what was right. Now he will be remembered as one of the biggest cowards of all time, giving up his principles to tow the party line – the citizens of America and the world be damned.

    We need President Obama to push hard for the American Power Act now more than ever, even harder than he did for heath care. Will he do it?

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    Implications and Economics (The Discipline)

    First (although second in my title) a comment on the discipline of Economics …

    Although I have not read this other half-A’d bill, it seems from the post that it doesn’t provide a means that will result in a price for carbon (or CO2).

    Well then …

    Professional and academic economists face two choices, and they are defining ones not only for the profession, but also for each individual economist: First, economists have to come to grips with the question of whether they are going to understand and trust the expert bona fide scientific community on the fact that we DO have a climate change problem, brought about largely by human activities. If economists do not understand, and try to understand, and “trust”, and have healthy confidence in, the bona fide scientific community, regarding scientific issues, then all I say is this: good luck (to economists) if they ever want anyone to place much confidence in them.

    And second, if and assuming economists will agree that the scientific community is most likely correct on the scientific matters, then (and in either case) economists should come out and explain to the public, clearly, that a free marketplace will not address the emissions problem if it remains free to pour GHGs into the atmosphere, i.e., if there is no mechanism that results in a “price” for carbon/CO2/etc.


    In other words, (let it be said that), the profession of economics will lose credibility with me, and with many others, and should lose its own self-respect, if it ignores science, ignores the expertise of the vast majority of scientists, and fails to sufficiently inform the public about what markets can and cannot be expected to do.

    Period (again)!!!

    There are economists at Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, Chicago, Wharton, Princeton, and on and on and on, and those economists should all ask themselves, and each other, these questions. Your credibility is at stake, economists and Economics. And the credibility of Economics is already deeply suffering, of course, as we can all see. Given the way it is often currently practiced, the question is a fair one: Is “economics” even a science, these days? The answer to that question will not depend on the word ‘economics’. Instead, it will depend on how present-day economists respond to these questions, and a few others.

    On the other note, there are implications of what is covered in the post to how we all approach things here, I think. These sorts of shifts and setbacks indicate — or should indicate — to us that much more engagement and effective action are needed. Commenting on blogs, and writing blogs, alone won’t do it. Not even close. How many times do we need to get “hit over the head” by some politician before we realize that?

    Economists, speak out and speak up!

    People who care, let’s get more active!



  5. prokaryote says:

    Hi-Res Video of the oil volcano with comments from Sen. Nellson about spill amount.

  6. Chris Dudley says:

    President Obama is now officially the President with the highest recorded annual percentage increase of coal mining fatalities with 37 chargeable fatalities this year: There is an additional fatality on May 4th which may be chargeable (officially counted) so the President may have reached this distinction on May 10. The year is less than half over and the President has the worst year-on-year coal mine safety degradation record ever. It is time to support legislation that will close dangerous mines, end offshore drilling and shift us off of fossil fuels. Graham’s bill does much the opposite and should be rewritten regardless of his support.

  7. Peter Sergienko says:

    Sen. Graham: “I like polar bears as much as anyone else.”

    Me: Why do the Republicans want to destroy Santa’s home?

    More seriously, European expansion, often intentionally and sometimes incidentally, wiped our or nearly wiped out many native American cultures and cultural identities. People have deep attachment to their cultural identities and fight hard to preserve them. The economically and politically dominant elements of our culture are slowly destroying our own collective cultural symbols, Santa just being one of the more popular and recognizable examples. In terms of stirring emotions and motivating political action, maybe it would help to start playing the Santa card.

  8. Sasparilla says:

    Unbelievable. Graham is now helping pound a stake through the heart of the climate/energy bill (not just standing back from it). How totally discouraging.

    More Republicans in the Senate and House will make it impossible to do anything meaningful after the elections this year (cause we’re not going to be getting Centrist Republicans in there).

    Seems like its game over at this point for our bill, for good. Obama and Co. blew our chance by not treating this issue as the critical thing (for our kids/grandkids/nation’s future) it was and doing it last year or early this year when they could. The Coal/Oil interests and their Republican lackies win.

  9. mike roddy says:

    It’s obvious what’s going on here. Graham was corralled by the Party big boys, either in the Senate cloakrooms or a Georgetown private dining room. The most likely interrogators were Inhofe, McConnell, and Barasso, who no doubt told Graham that he had some splainin’ to do…

    Graham is more intelligent and independent than any of them, but money doesn’t just carry a big stick in DC these days among Republicans, it is the Republican Party.

    But let’s not demonize a political party too much, even if it is controlled by whacked out hillbillies in $1500 suits who goosestep to Exxon Mobil and Peabody Coal. Eisenhower and Chafee were Republicans, too. This whole episode is a comment on the Western spiritual disintegration that was predicted by Spengler and Toynbee. We allowed this to happen because we didn’t stand up to the wealthy polluters.

    Thanks for the recent and surprising global warming poll results published on Climate Progress yesterday. The political leaders who step up here will be rewarded in every way, including popular support.

  10. Dan B says:

    Heckuva job Lindsey’s behavior seems erratic on the surface (and may be in reality – I leave that to the clinicians to determine). If we examine his behavior’s roots we may have a better chance of steering the congress back on track.

    My amateur psychology observes that Graham exhibits:
    A. an excessive existential focus on “security” particularly short term
    B. unerring devotion to “rugged individualism”
    C. belief in American exceptionalism derived from our rise to power after World War II

    A & B, security and go-it-alone individualism, combine to produce a fixation on fossil fuel production at home.

    But the underlying behavior exhibits strong similarities to additive behaviors. See if these begin to explain the erratic behavior exhibited, of late, by Sen. Graham, “Addicts want the quick fix regardless of the eventual harm. Cheaters want the quick win – regardless of the lasting consequences.” Daniel Pink ‘Drive’

    I could go on at greater depth about how the potential reward of money and influence produces a rush of hormones in specific brain regions identical to addicts, but.. Does this explanation resonate?

  11. prokaryote says:


    It’s time to move forward with comprehensive energy and climate legislation—and the Murkowski resolution is a clear step backwards.

  12. Rockfish says:

    Lesson learned – again.
    Never, ever, believe anything a politician says – only what he does.

  13. Raleigh Latham says:

    I suggest we all send Graham letters calling him a traitor and a coward for not endorsing his OWN BILL, maybe shame will at least hit home for him when other things won’t do. We need thousands of people calling this man a traitor, a coward, and a backstabber for attempting to derail America’s future.

  14. Craig says:

    A procedural rule called the filibuster just might be a major reason we fail to preserve a livable climate. A rule that doesn’t even exist in the Constitution.

    Try explaining that to somebody from the next generation.

    I can picture the horrified response already, “A procedural rule? Millions have suffered, countless species are extinct, forests have burned, droughts became permanent, and the ocean is a warm, acidic dead zone. Because of, what was that name again, a phillyduster?”

  15. Gregory Norminton says:

    Craig – the last thing America’s politicians are thinking about is “the next generation”.

  16. Michael Tucker says:

    This is totally expected! Republicans have reversed their positions on a number of issues in order to appeal to the most conservative in their party. I seriously doubt that a bill that calls for a tax increase or an increase in the cost of gasoline or coal will pass. The Republican Party has been hijacked by the no tax, no regulation, pro-oil tea party crowd. Rand Paul was actually defending BP the other day. They don’t care if progressives call them names; in fact it will help them get votes. They are only hurt if Limbaugh or Palin call them names. Empathy is a dirty word to Republicans and conservatives unless it is empathy for oil and coal companies. From now until the November elections conservatives will be very careful to DO NOTHING that will hurt votes.

  17. Lore says:

    I smell bait and switch. Sen. Lindsey Graham can brag about his willingness to work across party lines while ducking for cover under his own parties pathetic plan in the end. Save face and votes among his constituency and damn doing what’s right.

    This illustrates the difference between a great man and leader and just a man!

  18. fj2 says:

    Joe, You missed one link:

    Onion’s “Massive Flow of BS Continues to Gush From BP Oil Spill”

  19. Dana says:

    Wow. Not to long ago I sent Graham an email thanking him for his courage for standing up against his party to do what’s right when it comes to climate change.

    Now I feel like a complete sucker.

    I think I’ll be writing him another, less flattering email today.

  20. John Hollenberg says:

    Graham has lost all credibility… what a joke!

  21. prokaryote says:

    Bill Maher lays waste to Global Warming deniers

    Very good.

  22. Now this is a perfect example of when it would be great to have the link to send e-mails to the elected officials concerned — this time, thankfully supplied by reader Dana in comment #20.

  23. fj2 says:

    22. prokaryote, Thanks for the link to Bill Maher laying wast to global warming deniers.

    Absolutely hilarious and on-target!

  24. mike roddy says:

    Prokaryote, #5- thanks!

    Joe Johns ran a great piece, and I’m shocked but not quite surprised that it only seems to have appeared on CNN. If BP is capturing 10,000 barrels a day, that could be only 10%, which may be offset by the additional disturbance of the ocean floor.

    How in the world did an oil company decide that they alone had the right (until now) to see what is going on in American territorial waters?

    This is really where Obama blew it. He’s admitted as much, but needs to follow up with serious action.

  25. Progressive says:

    Decisions on a subject as monumental as national restrictions on CO2 emissions shouldbe left to our elected officials, not to executive agencies like EPA who are accountable only to the president.