Saturday, April 24, 2010

Senate Grownups Play Childish Games Over Climate Control Bill

If the grownups in Congress can't stand up to political heat, no wonder all incumbents are subject to the wrath of voters.

The latest example of profiles in timidity is Sen. John Kerry who said Saturday he is withdrawing the long-awaited climate change legislation scheduled to be introduced Monday.

The reason is petty politics. The public be damned.

What's at stake is a climate bill Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) worked on for six months that drew bipartisan support and backing from the Obama administration.

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced a shift in priorities and is considering leap-frogging immigration reform as the next major legislative battle in deference to a clamor from Hispanics who are whipping up support because of a new anti-illegal immigrant law passed Friday in Arizona.

As a result, Graham wrote a letter to Kerry threatening to withdraw support for climate control as a "cynical political ploy" by the Democrats knowing Senate Republicans are opposed to certain immigration reforms and would hurt their chances in the midterm elections in November.

As President Lyndon Johnson might have said, these guys can't chew gum and walk at the same time.

Graham fears the divisive immigration bill would seek amnesty for an estimated 12 million immigrants living in the country without proper documentation.

One can only assume President Obama is pushing Reid as a trial balloon testing the political waters for immigration reform to honor a campaign pledge and appease growing restlessness among Hispanic supporters. Climate change also is one of Obama's ambitious goals.

In his statement, Kerry tried to assure environmentalists and other backers that the delay will be short.

The bill aims to cut emissions of polluting greenhouse gases 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and expand domestic production of oil, natural gas and nuclear power. Carol Browner, White House energy adviser, praised Kerry, Graham and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) for their efforts, saying Obama wants the bill passed by Congress this year.

"Moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy," Graham said. "Let's be clear, a phony, political effort on immigration today accomplishes nothing but making it exponentially more difficult to address (energy and climate change) in a serious, comprehensive manner in the future."

Kerry praised Graham for his work and was joined by Lieberman who said he's disappointed that "allegations of partisan politics will prevent us from introducing the bill on Monday as planned."

Reid is up for re-election this year and trailing in polls in Nevada, where Latinos are an important constituency. With Democrats facing a tough political climate in the midterm elections, energized Hispanic voters could make a difference in several states.

In a statement Saturday that was both conciliatory and noncommittal, Reid said he is committed to passing both immigration and energy this year.

"I will not allow him (Graham) 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."

Readers comments are welcome as long as they remain civil. We reserve the right to delete any comments that are vulgar, libelous and totally irrelevant to this posting. -- Jer 

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