A call for bipartisanship from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham today. More from my colleague on Capitol Hill, Z. Byron Wolf: With Republicans on the Environment Committee boycotting drafting sessions for a climate change bill, a bipartisan group announced today they would work with Senate leaders and the White House outside of the committee process to draft a separate bill.Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, who has come under fire from conservatives this year for his willingness to work with Democrats on Climate Change legislation, appeared with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, at a press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the new effort.
Graham did not speak specifically to the Republican boycott in the Environment committee, but he did say more broadly of the climate change debate, "I hope Republican colleagues will at least come to the table."Graham and Kerry outlined what a bipartisan approach should look like last month in the New York Times.
"Doing nothing has a consequence," Graham said today, pointing to authority claimed by EPA under the Clean Air Act to set rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions outside of Congressional approval. He implied that a bipartisan bill with Congressional approval would be more business friendly.
It is unclear what their bill will look like. And legislation becomes more difficult as details emerge. To wit, there was broad bipartisan agreement earlier this year that there should be health reform, but as bills evolved in Congress, deeply partisan rifts emerged.
Conspicuously absent from today's press conference was Sen. John McCain, who is very close to Graham and whose name has appeared in the past on bipartisan, but unsuccessful attempts at climate change legislation.
What shape a bipartisan climate change bill could take in the Senate is far from certain. Kerry is a co-sponsor of the bill Republicans at the Energy Committee are boycotting. It would cap carbon emissions for businesses and create a barter system for businesses who exceed their quota to trade for more carbon credits.
But Kerry would not commit today that this new bipartisan bill would build on the "cap and trade" format. And squaring the need to limit carbon emissions with a business-friendly bill will remain the crux of any legislation that can achieve 60 votes in the Senate.
"If energy policy is not good business, it'll never get 60 votes," Graham said. But he also spoke of the urgency of doing something about climate change, casting action in terms of the economy. "The green economy is coming. We can either be followers or leaders. Those who lead will make money," Graham said.
His point was that if Republicans are not engaged in the process, the Obama administration and the EPA will use existing authority to bypass Congress and regulate gas emissions.
Kerry said any legislation the group develops will be done on a "dual track" with bills written by the six Senate Committees that also have jurisdiction.
"We will be working very very closely with the administration and fully respectful of all of the efforts made by each individual committee with jurisdiction in this area," said Kerry.
Kerry, Lieberman and Graham met today with Energy Secretary Steven Chu and also have meetings scheduled with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Carol Browner, who is the top White House Policy staffer (nee czar) on the issue of climate change.
"Our effort is to reach out to broaden the base of support beyond the six committees of jurisdiction," said Kerry.