Well, today was supposed to be the first day of the rest of our lives, climate change legislationally-speaking. John Kerry, Joe Leiberman, and Lindsey Graham were set to publicly unveil their “tripartisan” climate change bill today, at least until Graham decided to walk away. Now, it has been indefinitely postponed.
The reason for Graham’s defection seems to be a source of great confusion on Capitol Hill. It really all comes down to what will end up being the next legislative priority (after FinReg) in the Senate: climate change or immigration. Up until last week, the answer seemed to unquestionably be climate change. Just as health care was a national priority that needed to be addressed ASAP while the only party willing to do so had power, climate change is a global priority that also needs to be confronted. Late last week, however, word started to get out that immigration reform, not a climate or energy bill, would be next in line for the Senate:
Despite a new bipartisan push on climate change, legislation on the issue is unlikely to make it to the Senate floor this year, two Senate Democratic sources tell CNN.
The main reason sources say the prospects for the legislation are dim is because Senate Democratic leaders have decided to try to put immigration reform first on the agenda, and after that there likely won’t be an appetite for another politically divisive issue before November’s election – especially with a Supreme Court nomination ahead and a desire to stay focused on the politically potent issue of jobs.
The hubbub in Arizona may have played a part in bringing immigration reform back to the forefront, but another state probably played a bigger role — Nevada. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in the midst of a difficult re-election campaign, and immigration reform could be a big help in a state where one quarter of the population is Hispanic. The biggest problem right now, though, is that no one really seems to know what is going on.
A number of different stories quote unnamed “Democratic sources” as saying that immigration reform will be the next priority, while reports from official sources are all over the place. Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress has a pretty good rundown. Reaction to the news is equally varied, even within individuals. Everything from Jonathan Chait being outraged, but understanding of Lindsey Graham’s anger, to Ezra Klein being sympathetic to Graham, but also cognizant that Reid might be making a cold, but accurate, call.
A person’s view seems to depend on how vital they see tackling climate change, and what they thought the chances of the different bills passing was. And bear in mind, the House has already passed a climate/energy bill, whereas nothing has been done yet in regards to immigration. Since, with Graham’s support, it looked like a climate bill had a real chance to pass, I’m of the opinion that it’s a poor trade to sacrifice saving the planet for saving Harry Reid’s ass. On the other hand, immigration reform, while less likely to actually pass, will work as a much better campaign wedge issue to help hasten the decline of the Republican Party. So, it’s got that goin’ for it. What do y’all think? Should the Senate keep plugging away on a climate bill, or dump it for immigration reform?