Senator John Kerry says climate and energy bill to remain under wraps until immigration issue resolved

Publish date: April 27, 2010

Written by: Charles Digges

NEW YORK – Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry, one of the three co-authors of the US climate and energy bill said the legislation will not be unveiled until a crucial Republican ally of the Obama Administration and Democratic leaders smooth over their differences over whether immigration legislation should fall under a separate floor debate, John Kerry’s office reported.

At the same time, Kerry donned a diplomatic mantle, telling reporters, “”There’s a lot that’s happening privately and quietly, and I think we all have to quiet down, stay on track, and this is just a hiccup on the road to paradise.”

Meanwhile, America’s top environmental organisations sent letters to the entire senate urging them to move forward on getting the climate and energy bill to the long delayed Senate Floor debate.

The internecine struggle seems to be pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to reconsider his demand to tackle immigration and climate and energy legislation at the same time.

At issue is South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham’s refusal to take part in the unveiling of the climate bill on Monday when Reid, a Democrat, said he also wanted to roll out immigration legislation before November’s mid-term Congressional elections.

This would tighten the vice on Senators, especially those like Graham and Kerry, who have been working to get the climate bill to the Senate floor for debate for months. Critics of Reid’s move to double load the Senate agenda with a debate over immigration legislation have criticised him for cluttering the agenda with an issue that will impinge on his own re-election.

They have also said that the climate bill is written and ready to be revealed, where no work has been done toward an immigration bill – something that would interminably delay debate on the climate bill for the sake of creating new immigration legislation.

On Monday, Graham, also a co-author of the climate bill, walked out of a closed door meeting with Kerry and the bill’s other co-author Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman, and indicated his plans not to support the bills unveiling if immigration were forced onto the senate age by Reid.

Graham had announced his plans to take this drastic step on Saturday


Reid issues note of reconsideration

Reid on Tuesday adopted a conciliatory tone, indicating plans to first tackle comprehensive measures aimed at curbing greenhouse gases rather than the hot-button immigration issue.

“The energy bill is much further down the road as far as a product,” Reid told reporters, citing legislation that Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman were planning to release Monday before Graham walked away from the negotiations.

“So common sense dictates that if you have a bill that’s ready to go, that’s the one I’m going to go to,” Reid said. “Because immigration, we don’t have a bill yet.”

Reid said he needed Republican support to move both the immigration and climate change bills. But asked if would be impossible to move forward on a climate bill without Graham, Reid replied, “No, I don’t think so,” ClimateWire quoted him as saying.

Kerry resolved to move ahead

Kerry told reporters he has spoken several times with Reid and Graham since the weekend in an effort to end the debate over the timing on immigration and get back to the Senate climate and energy bill that has been more than six months in the making.

“I think he’s working in good faith, and he’s working diligently and appropriately to try to help find resolution,” Kerry said of Reid. “As is Lindsey Graham.”

“You all understand the dynamic that has to be resolved, and I’m hopeful it’ll be resolved as soon as possible,” Kerry told reporters yesterday speaking from his Senate office. “I’m very hopeful about that. But it obviously has to be resolved before we can make the announcement. But we’re poised, as soon as possible.”

Kerry, Graham and Lieberman planned to send their bill to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as soon as yesterday to begin what is expected to be a six-week economic analysis of the proposal that caps greenhouse gas emissions across multiple economic sectors, as well as expands domestic production of oil, gas and nuclear power, Kerry said.

I was unclear Wednesday morning if the bill had made it to the EPA.

But Kerry said yesterday that the apparent pot-hole on the road would not slow the movement of the climate and energy bill.

“We’re not stopping, not one moment,” Kerry told reporters. “We’re meeting. We’re talking. We continue to work on certain issues. … We’re full speed ahead notwithstanding this moment of public stall. And we hope that the issue can be resolved soon.”

US green groups pushing for action

Leaders of 31 influential environmental groups yesterday sent letters to each of the United State’s 100 senators in an effort to push them forward on the climate and energy bill.

“The United States Senate stands at a moment in history in which decisions made today will have a lasting impact on generations of Americans to come,” wrote the Alliance for Climate Protection, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters and Oceana.

“The Senate faces a choice between leading America forward in a new clean energy economy or holding America back by preserving the failed energy policies of the past,” the groups wrote in their joint letter.