Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a key Republican negotiator on climate change and immigration reform legislation, sat down with The Hill to discuss the future of both issues this year in Congress.
He doesn’t think the signs look good given the fallout from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Why would a person who really believes in drilling put a bill on the floor right now to expand drilling and revenue sharing, knowing it can’t get 50 votes?” Graham said. “The resistance to drilling has hardened on the Democratic side, so we [Republicans have] got more votes to make up.”
Graham predicts that 10 to 12 Democrats will oppose the drilling provision he originally negotiated in the energy bill, undermining the reason he joined talks in the first place: to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
“I don’t think I can get what I wanted as part of the deal,” said Graham, in reference to the drilling provisions. “It’s no fault to Kerry and Lieberman. Harry Reid didn’t create this problem. This problem was created by BP.”
On that issue, he will “withhold final judgment until next month, when he’ll have a better sense of the political fallout from the spill.”
“I’ve told the president in a kind way that we have one last chance on immigration. If we put it on the floor and it gets 45 votes, nobody will touch this for a decade,” he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is still holding out hope for a comprehensive reform package and even mentioned Graham’s name during a floor speech touting it.
Graham later chuckled at Schumer’s optimism.
Interestingly, Senator Graham says he has “stayed in close touch with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who put much hope in Graham at the beginning of the 111th Congress.”
Emanuel courted Graham intensively, bringing him to the Oval Office for a private chat with the president. The effort paid off a little on Tuesday when Obama met with Senate Republicans in the Capitol. Graham acted as mediator between his irate colleagues and Obama, who also grew testy at times.
Graham says he can continue to be useful as a back channel.
“After the lunch Tuesday, there’s a lot of tension up here; we kept lines of communication open,” he said of himself and Emanuel.
(credit image – daylife/getty)