Could Health Care Bill's Passage Endanger Energy Reform?


Photo via Atro City News

There's one major way that it feasibly could--and that's if the passage of a health care bill causes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to jump ship on energy reform efforts. Josh Nelson grapples with this possibility in a good piece over at EnviroKnow, noting the senator's threats to bail on energy reform if the Democrats use the reconciliation process to pass parts of the health care legislation. And the loss of Graham's support would indeed be a significant one--he's currently the only Republican actively supporting energy reform. But would he really walk away from his efforts--which have been controversial amongst the GOP--or is it an empty threat?Lindsay Graham made an eyebrow-raising statement on ABC's this Week, saying:

If they do this, it's going to poison the well for anything else they would like to achieve this year or thereafter.

"I've been working with Lieberman and Kerry, we've come a long way on the climate and energy issue," Graham said. "This is one issue where the president has been great. He's saying all the right things to give us a chance to become energy independent, clean up the air and create jobs. But when it comes to health care, he's been tone deaf, he's been arrogant, and they're pushing a legislative proposal and a way to do that legislative proposal that's going to destroy the ability of this country to work together for a very long time. And that's not necessary."

While not an explicit threat to abandon clean energy legislation, that's certainly the gist of it. And Nelson is right to note that the health care fracas provides Graham with a tidy opportunity to bail on working on a climate bill--which has caused a fair amount of hate to be thrown his way by right wing pundits and has been somewhat controversial among his own supporters. It'd certainly be easier to appease the GOP base by throwing in the towel.

So while this is certainly a concern, and Dems should take care not to deliberately piss him off, I'd opine that passing health care reform (which Graham is vehemently against) through reconciliation wouldn't be the last straw. It seems he's already taken such a beating from his base for even meeting with Kerry and supporting the idea of energy reform--remember, the GOP stance on climate legislation was already a hardline 'no' when he emerged as a supporter. He's already taken enough flack, spent enough time holding his ground, explaining his position, that I can't imagine the logic of turning back now.

I can't be sure, of course, but it seems to me that Graham is truly backing energy reform because of ideological reasons--he thinks it's right, and perhaps has the foresight to realize it could pay political dividends when the coming prominence of a clean energy economy is better realized by the mainstream public. I don't think spite over the Dem's health care procedural tactics will override that ideology. But it's still certainly something for energy reform hopefuls to be nervous about.

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Tags: Congress | Global Climate Change | United States

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