Reid Reverses Course, Will Address Energy Before Immigration

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has reversed course again and will bring up the energy and climate bill before immigration reform after all.

One of the energy/climate bill’s main authors, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), had threatened to pull his support from the bill if immigration came first, given that there’s really only time for one more major bill in before campaigns begin in August. Although many commenters here criticized Graham for the stunt, it appears to have worked. Reid’s stated reason has nothing to do with Graham’s protest, and while that reason makes sense, it's one that was true before Graham walked: “The energy bill is ready. We will move to that more quickly than a bill we don't have. I don't have an immigration bill." It was likely a combination of Graham threats and pressure from the environmental community that brought the energy bill back.

And indeed, this is a victory for environmental groups. The Sierra Club asked members to put pressure on their Senators to bring the bill up despite Reid’s move. Here at MyDD, the NRDC’s Heather Taylor-Miesle reacted to Graham’s withdrawal with a diary called “CLIMATE CHANGE CANNOT WAIT.” Other groups had similar messages.

My own reaction to the bill’s delay was more mixed. I have long thought that climate change’s scientific tipping point of no return is the most important part of the issue, meaning that getting a bill soon is probably more important than getting the bill right. Immigration, health insurance, etc. won't be harder to fix if we wait; climate change may be impossible to fix if we wait. I can tolerate fossil fuel giveaways, EPA restrictions, etc. if it's the only way to get fast action. Once KGL had sunk so far as to ban the states from getting more aggressive than the feds, however, I wasn’t so sure anymore. As I wrote after Graham and Reid initially scuttled the bill, perhaps the bill had finally sunk so much that it would be worth it to wait for January’s filibuster reform and a better bill, tipping point bedamned.

Now that we’re back on track for fast action, I stand by that statement. We must pass a bill as soon as possible, meaning this year if at all possible, but it must not weaken the states’ authority to pass their own stricter measures. California and New England have shown strong leadership on energy solutions, and blocking their innovation would make this bill a last step, not a first one. If that provision can’t be scuttled, this bill must be defeated and improved post-filibuster reform. If, however, we can convince the Senate to drop that provision, or if the House can defeat it in conference, than this truly is our best chance to price carbon for the first time in history and begin moving forward with a clean energy economy. Kill the anti-federalist measures and pass this bill.

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