NY Times Climate Change Editorial
A Dangerous Squabble
NY Times Editorial
April 27, 2010
Among the Senate’s most important tasks this year are fashioning a rational, humane immigration policy and a rational, comprehensive energy policy to address climate change and oil dependency. Unless Lindsey Graham and Harry Reid can patch up a needless feud, the Senate could end up doing neither. That would be a terrible outcome, since nobody knows what the appetite for either task will be after the November elections.
A rapprochement may require White House intervention. Late last week, Mr. Reid, the Senate majority leader, hinted that he might bring up immigration reform before an energy bill. Mr. Graham went ballistic.
The South Carolina Republican has been working on a bipartisan energy bill for months, and had been led to believe by the White House that it had priority. He also supports immigration reform, but angrily charged that putting it first was nothing more than a “cynical political ploy” to help Mr. Reid win Hispanic votes in his home state of Nevada.
Mr. Reid fired back, insinuating that Mr. Graham was abandoning the energy bill under pressure from the Republican leadership. (He’s gotten heat in his home state for supporting both bills and having them sidetracked would, by the way, lower the temperature.)
Trading insults gets the country nowhere. The energy bill is vital. But Congress must respond to Arizona’s xenophobic new law, which threatens to turn legal immigrants, even citizens, into targets of the police for merely looking Hispanic.
Mr. Reid knows that Washington’s failure to enact national immigration reform has left the country open to that kind of mischief. So he must deal with that as well as other complex issues like energy, financial reform and a new Supreme Court vacancy.
Mr. Graham is feeling a bit fragile. Virtually alone among Republicans, he has worked not only for climate change legislation but for immigration reform, and has helped the White House on other issues as well; he was also the only Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee to support Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. For his pains, he has suffered a steady hammering from the Republican leadership and conservative voters.
Truth is, Mr. Reid and Mr. Graham need each other. And there is no reason this has to be a zero-sum game.
The energy bill so laboriously drafted by Mr. Graham and Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman is ready to be presented to the relevant committees. Indeed, it was to have been unveiled on Monday until Mr. Graham pulled out. Immigration reform is not that far along, but aides to Mr. Graham and Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, are said to be toiling away on a draft.
What’s important now is to get both back on track. The time left until people run back home to campaign for re-election is dwindling fast.