Will the White House Intervene in Climate Spat?

With the fate of climate and energy legislation in peril, will the White House intervene to save one (and possibly two) of their top legislative priorities? It doesn’t appear so, at least not yet.

The Obama administration so far is staying out of the Senate squabble that kicked up this weekend when Lindsey Graham, the lone Republican working with Democrats on a climate and energy package, threatened to walk away from negotiations if the Democratic leadership followed through on talk of pushing an immigration reform bill first. Climate and energy bill co-authors Graham (R-SC), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) were supposed to unveil their legislation today, promising unprecedented industry support. The rollout was delayed in hopes of salvaging bipartisan backing for the bill. The White House has declined to state a preference on which issue moves first—climate or immigration.

“There’s no either-or between energy and immigration reform,” Larry Summer, Obama’s chief economic adviser, said on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday. “Senator Reid, for whatever reasons he has, will in the Senate choose the legislative calendar.”

White House climate and energy adviser Carol Browner issued a statement of continued support for a bipartisan bill on Saturday, but she didn’t make any comment on timing, short of saying the White House still wants comprehensive legislation this year. “We believe the only way to make progress on these priorities is to continue working as we have thus far in a bipartisan manner to build more support for both comprehensive energy independence and immigration reform legislation,” she noted.

“We have an historic opportunity to finally enact measures that will break our dependence on foreign oil, help create clean energy jobs and reduce carbon pollution,” Browner continued. “We’re determined to see it happen this year, and we encourage the Senators to continue their important work on behalf of the country and not walk away from the progress that’s already been made.”

The fight to pass legislation on the already contentious issue of climate and energy got uglier this weekend. Some intervention from the top might be necessary if the work Graham has been doing with Kerry and Lieberman is to be salvaged.