April 26, 2010

Political Setback Threatens Obama’s Climate Agenda

President Obama's climate change plan was pushed back Sunday after a key Republican pulled his support for an energy and climate bill over an outrage due to an immigration bill that was moved forward ahead of the climate bill.

The move shocked White House officials, who were unsure how to respond to the unraveling of a major part of the president's strategy both for meeting his international oaths on climate change and shifting the US economy from reliance on foreign oil.

Lawrence Summers, the head of the White House National Economic Council, said the cooperation was very much needed by Senator Lindsey Graham. "Even though immigration reform and energy reform are both crucial issues for the business community, there has been an enormous back pressure against the kind of bipartisan cooperation that Senator Graham has engaged in, and that perhaps has made this a more complex situation, more difficult for him than it would otherwise be," he said while on CBS's "ËœFace the Nation' program.

"But we are prepared to go ahead vigorously with any partner who wants to join us on both energy reform and immigration legislation because we think gridlock needs to end," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's shift in legislative priorities comes as Democrats face an increasingly heated climate in November midterm elections.

In a letter Saturday, Graham accused the administration of putting "partisan, political objectives" ahead of the energy bill, and warned that "moving forward on immigration -- in this hurried, panicked manner -- was nothing more than a cynical political ploy."

Graham's partners in drafting the climate bill, Democratic Senator John Kerry and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, called off plans to introduce it on Monday as they regrouped.

Kerry said that this year was probably the best last chance for Congress to pass a broad reform bill that encompassed both climate change and energy conservation. "We have no choice but to act this year. The American people deserve better than for the Senate to defer this debate or settle for an energy-only bill that won't get the job done," he said.

Republicans have questioned whether either the climate or immigration bills should even be brought to the table at a time when Congress has its hands full with huge budget concerns.

The bill devised by Kerry, Graham and Lieberman was to have dropped a so-called "cap and trade system" advocated by Obama and passed by the House of Representatives last year.

Instead of caps on emissions of greenhouse gases and a market for trading pollution rights among companies, the Senate bill was to have a price on carbon pollution and promoted offshore oil drilling, new nuclear plants and development of renewable energy to help wean the United States off oil imports.


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