Senate Democrats on Thursday evening unveiled an "framework" for immigration reform, calling on Republicans to work with them while at the same time indicating that they are willing to go it alone if they have to. The move comes after a week of bitter back and forth between Majority Leader Harry Reid and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina over whether immigration or climate should be next in line. Graham has so far been the lone Republican working with Democrats on both issues.
Reid yesterday indicated that energy would come next. But Graham has accused Democrats of "playing politics," and warns that moving on immigration at all this year would prompt him to abandon cooperation on both issues.
Reid addressed the Graham situation directly at the press conference, after fielding a question about whether their immigration work might imperil the climate bill. Graham, Reid said, "cannot logically use immigration as an excuse to not help with energy." He also said his calls for bipartisan work on immigration aren't necessarily directed at Graham. "There are 40 other Republicans," Reid said.
Reid also tried to downplay the tension over which issue should be next in line. "There's no one in this Congress in the House or Senate who believes in doing something about our environment more than I do," said Reid. "We need to do comprehensive energy legislation as soon as we can."
But the hurried roll out of their immigration framework seemed to be a clear indicator of where Reid is throwing his support. The planned introduction of draft legislation on climate change and energy has been delayed indefinitely as its co-authors scramble to deal with the Graham situation.
Exiting a meeting in the Republican Whip's office, Graham declined comment to reporters, saying only that a statement from he and Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) would be forthcoming. Here's their statement dismissing the framework as a "conceptual paper" and calling for a bipartisan effort. He did not say anything about where this leaves him on climate and energy.