Senate climate change bill delayed as key lawmaker withdraws support

[JURIST] US Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) [official website] withdrew support for a comprehensive climate change bill on Saturday, delaying the unveiling of the legislation and casting its prospects for passage into doubt. The bill represents a major part of President Barack Obama's legislative agenda and had been under negotiation [AP report] between Graham and Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) [official websites] for six months. The proposed legislation was to be unveiled Monday, but was postponed by Kerry after learning of Graham's decision. In a letter [text], Graham, the only Republican Senator that has agreed to work with the Obama administration on the bill, criticized the Democratic leadership for the reported plan to move forward with immigration reform [JURIST news archive] legislation before the climate bill. Graham described the move as motivated by partisan politics, saying:

I was greatly looking forward to the opportunity to address [energy independence] on the floor of the U.S. Senate as we pushed [this] 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. In 2007, we spent hundreds of hours over many months ... searching for a way to address our nation’s immigration problems. 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.
In responding to Graham's announcement, Kerry said that he would be willing to return [NYT report] to negotiations whenever Graham was, but was unsure of when that would be. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] stated his commitment to passage of both the climate bill and immigration reform legislation before the November midterm elections and the end of the current session of Congress.

The US House of Representatives [official website] passed [JURIST report] their version of the climate bill [HR 2454 materials] in June on a narrow 219-212 vote. The bill calls for a reduction in greenhouse emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050 by establishing a cap-and-trade system. The bill establishes first-time limits on greenhouse gases that will become progressively stricter. Immigration reform constitutes another plank of Obama's legislative agenda. Graham and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website] unveiled [JURIST report] their proposal for comprehensive immigration reform in March. The plan entails improving border security, creating a system through which temporary workers would be admitted, introducing biometric identification cards, and instituting a process to legalize illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] currently residing within the US. The proposed bill is also the first attempt at immigration reform since the failed [JURIST report] Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill [S 1639 materials] in 2007. At that time, detractors called the bill too lenient on illegal immigrants and said that by granting legal status to illegal aliens, the US was granting "amnesty."

 

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