Senate Climate Bill Saga Jerks Forward as Graham Wields Power

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) today suggested that the stalled climate bill could move before the immigration package, potentially breaking a logjam with key sponsor Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). From Business Week:

"The energy bill is ready, we will move that more quickly than a bill we don't have," Reid told reporters today in Washington. "I don't have an immigration bill."

Reid said he told Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina last week that he wanted to proceed with climate- change legislation before taking up immigration. Graham, working on both issues, pulled out of talks to proceed with a global- warming bill on April 24 to protest that President Barack Obama and Senate leaders may act first on immigration laws.

No word from Graham yet on whether he'll revoke a promise made on Saturday to bolt a coalition he has formed with senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and John Kerry (D-MA). The threesome has a bill considered more industry-friendly than the climate bill passed by the House of Representatives last year.

Although the bill's supporters say it would match the House version in cutting greenhouse gases 17% below 2005 levels by 2005, it would be less aggressive by covering only part of the economy at first and phasing utilities in later, while offering more financial support and flexibility to industry.

The politics at work right now are complex, with Reid facing a tough election campaign at home where millions of Latino Nevadans could favor his immigration bill. Graham has much to lose if an immigration bill comes up and splits the GOP, because he favors Reid's reforms and is already under fire at home for centrist positions. For him, climate may be less painful to pass than immigration - and it has a better chance of passage.

Graham "likes to work in a bipartisan way so that he can be there to make deals, affect things," said South Carolina state senator Paul Campbell, a Republican. "But I don't know why he's partnered with Kerry on this."

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