In its main environmental story today — “On climate bill, Democrats work to overcome Graham’s immigration objections” — the WashPost said:
In some ways, the problem that proponents of climate legislation face is that they’re pursuing a policy goal that is not much of a hot-button political issue. Environmental activists had a well-attended event Sunday on the Mall, with musical stars Sting and John Legend, but immigration reform advocates are likely to dwarf that turnout with dozens of rallies across the country Saturday.
Yes, the biggest single climate rally in U.S. history is dismissed by comparison with the hypothetical cumulative turnout of dozens of future rallies on immigration. Who says the media isn’t fair? Apparently preserving the health and well-being of countless future generations isn’t “hot-button” enough for the media to be interested [kind of an ironic phrase, considering the rally was for action of global warming].
The “problem” for the White House (and Senate Majority Leader Reid) is that if they push immigration first, they kill both bills — knowingly — and they break a long-standing (and oft-repeated) commitment to three major constituencies: environmentalists, clean energy types (like me), and young voters.
I am not an immigration analyst, so let me quote The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait from Friday, writing about the possibility that “Senate Democratic leaders have decided to try to put immigration reform first on the agenda”:
This strikes me as a terrible idea. First of all, climate legislation is just plain more important than immigration reform. The latter is important, but the former is dire. Given that Republicans may well take control of the House in November, and could easily hold it for a long time, this year could literally be the last chance to pass climate legislation, however watered down.
Now, I suppose I could be persuaded of the merits of this move if it seemed clear that the climate bill had little chance to pass and immigration stood a great chance to pass. But this does not seem to be the case….
It’s true that immigration splits the GOP. But it also splits the Democrats, who have a lot of members representing heavily white, working-class areas. Increasing the political salience of immigration at a time when unemployment is over 9% does not seem like a good strategy to help them. Also keep in mind that the House has already passed a climate bill, but hasn’t passed an immigration bill.
Indeed, Politico persuasively suggests that the cost of shelving climate for immigration is probably to kill both….
If this is Reid’s decision, the White House needs to come down hard on him. It’s outrageous to sacrifice a chance to make progress on the biggest single policy challenge merely to increase the reelection chances of one Senator. This episode also shows, again, why it’s a bad idea to have your Senate leader hail from a state that leans toward the opposing party.
There’s some good background on the timeline of events from Brad Johnson’s WR post, “Whisper Campaign Derails Climate Bill Rollout.” I’ll have more to say about Graham’s role shortly.
Finally, for those who want to read about the Earth Day event in the WashPost, you have to go to the Style section, “Earth Day’s moment in the sun,” which has some great pictures, like the one above. I’ll post more on the event when I get the videos. Earth Day Network put the crowd over 150,000 and others gave me a similar number.