Graham: Energy First, or I Walk

Lindsey Graham has made his opposition to taking up immigration reform before a climate and energy bill well-known. On Saturday, he made it clear that if Democrats go that route, he’s walking away from the work he’s done with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on a comprehensive package.

The Hill reports that Graham sent a letter to supporters saying that he will be “unable to move forward” with the energy and climate plan they’re expected to roll out on Monday if it falls behind immigration on the list of legislative priorities. Graham quitting his work on the bill would send negotiations into a state of chaos; he’s as of yet the only Republican publicly engaged with Democrats in writing legislation.

From Graham’s letter:

Recent press reports indicating that immigration—not energy—is their priority have not been repudiated. This has destroyed my confidence that there will be a serious commitment and focus to move energy legislation this year. All of the key players, particularly the Senate leadership, have to want this debate as much as we do. This is clearly not the case.

I am very disappointed with this turn of events and believe their decision flies in the face of commitments made weeks ago to Senators Kerry, Lieberman and me. I deeply regret that election year politics will impede, if not derail, our efforts to make our nation energy independent.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) issued a statement affirming his commitment to addressing both issues this Congress, noting that they are “equally vital to our economic and national security and have been ignored for far too long.” But Reid also made it clear that he plans to move on whichever piece of legislation has the support to pass. “As I have said, I am committed to trying to enact comprehensive clean energy legislation this session of Congress,” said Reid. “Doing so will require strong bipartisan support and energy could be next if it’s ready.”

As for Graham, Reid said:

I appreciate the work of Senator Graham on both of these issues and understand the tremendous pressure he is under from members of his own party not to work with us on either measure. But I will not allow him to play one issue off of another, and neither will the American people. They expect us to do both, and they will not accept the notion that trying to act on one is an excuse for not acting on the other.

What this means for Monday’s anticipated roll out of a climate and energy bill isn’t clear. “Unless their plan substantially changes this weekend, I will be unable to move forward on energy independence legislation at this time,” Graham wrote. “I will not allow our hard work to be rolled out in a manner that has no chance of success.”