The state of climate and energy legislation was thrown into disarray Saturday evening as the lead Republican on the bill, Lindsey Graham, threatened to walk away from negotiations over tensions on timing. With bipartisan agreement in peril, John Kerry, the lead Democrat on the bill, pushed off the anticipated roll out of the bill scheduled for Monday.
"For more than six months, Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, and I have been meeting for hours each day to find a bi-partisan path forward and build an unprecedented coalition of stakeholders to pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill this year," Kerry said in a statement. "We all believe that this year is our best and perhaps last chance for Congress to pass a comprehensive approach. We believe that we had reached such an agreement and were excited to announce it on Monday, but regrettably external issues have arisen that force us to postpone only temporarily."
Graham had expressed anger over the suggestion from Democratic leaders that immigration reform might move ahead of climate and energy legislation. Earlier on Saturday, he told supporters that he would walk away from the bill if Democratic leadership did not commit to moving their forthcoming bill first. Graham quitting his work on the bill would put its fate in question; he's the only Republican publicly engaged with Democrats in writing legislation.
Kerry said he remains "deeply committed to this effort" and that there is "no choice but to act this year." He also praised Graham’s role in shaping the bill, but said he and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) would move forward without him. "Joe and I deeply regret that he feels immigration politics have gotten in the way and for now prevent him from being engaged in the way he intended. But we have to press forward. Lindsey has helped to build an unprecedented coalition of stakeholders from the environmental community and the industry who have been prepared to stand together behind a proposal. That can’t change. We can’t allow this moment to pass us by."
Kerry, Graham and Lieberman had expected to unveil a draft of their legislation on Monday, promising unprecedented support from industry groups. But at this point, the bill's fate is uncertain, to say the least.