Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had, at one time, insisted on working with John Kerry and Barbara Boxer to get some version of cap-and-trade passed despite the otherwise unanimous opposition of his party. He had also declared his intent to get a comprehensive immigration bill passed in Congress, mainly on the terms of Democrats, not unlike his efforts in 2006 and 2007. For some reason, however, Graham has become disenchanted with the order in which Democrats plan to pursue these bills and has backed away from both:
In a move that may derail a comprehensive climate change and energy bill in the Senate, one of the measure’s central architects, Senator Lindsey Graham, has issued an angry protest over what he says are Democratic plans to give priority to a debate over immigration policy.
Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said in a sharply worded letter on Saturday that he would no longer participate in negotiations on the energy bill, throwing its already cloudy prospects deeper into doubt. He had been working for months with Senators John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, on the a legislation, which they were scheduled to announce with considerable fanfare on Monday morning. That announcement has been indefinitely postponed.
In his letter to his two colleagues, Mr. Graham said that he was troubled by reports that the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and the White House were planning to take up an immigration measure before the energy bill. Mr. Graham has worked with Democrats in the past on immigration matters and was expected to be an important bridge to Republicans on that issue, as well as on energy.
Mr. Graham said that any Senate debate on the highly charged subject of illegal immigration would make it impossible to deal with the difficult issues involved in national energy and global warming policy.
Conversely, any debate on cap-and-trade would likely make it impossible to reach a deal on immigration. Both of these bills will inspire contentious debate. It’s somewhat difficult to see how Graham can object to their order on the Senate agenda on that basis — at least as long as one gives Graham credit for a little intellectual honesty.
The subtext here is that Democrats very obviously want an immigration debate in order to split the GOP ahead of the elections, as well as to pander to Hispanic voters. The cap-and-trade debate will be a loser for Democrats, especially in the Coal/Rust Belt states that depend on fossil fuels for their economic lives. The GOP could hammer Democrats on that one issue in states like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio for the next several months (and almost certainly will anyway). If the cap-and-trade bill provokes a national backlash approximating what ObamaCare did for the Tea Parties, Democrats could set records for losses in Congress this November.
Graham doesn’t want to split his own party this close to an election, which is why he’s putting up a fight. He’s not changing his mind on cap-and-trade or on immigration. He still wants to hew closer to a broad amnesty than proper border enforcement and an insistence on Homeland Security reforming the visa system — which was supposed to have been done four years ago. This foot-stamping is only intended to force Democrats away from an immigration debate in 201o and postpone it until 2011, in order for Graham to get his climate-change debate instead. That deserves half a cheer at most from the GOP.
Update: South Carolina, not North Carolina.