Republican Senator Crosses Aisle to Voice Support for Climate Change Legislation

Republican Senator Crosses Aisle to Voice Support for Climate Change Legislation

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) crossed the political aisle over the weekend by joining Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in penning an op-ed in the New York Times advocating the passage of climate change legislation.

The development is a major boost for Democrats' chances of passing legislation this session. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a climate change bill earlier this summer, but the bill recently introduced by Kerry and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) faces stiff resistance in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster.

Adding to the pressure is the United Nations climate change negotiations taking place in Copenhagen in December, where countries will attempt to craft an agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Sen. Graham and Kerry acknowledged the challenges facing climate change legislation, writing:

"Conventional wisdom suggests that the prospect of Congress passing a comprehensive climate change bill soon is rapidly approaching zero. The divisions in our country on how to deal with climate change are deep. Many Democrats insist on tough new standards for curtailing the carbon emissions that cause global warming. Many Republicans remain concerned about the cost to Americans relative to the environmental benefit and are adamant about breaking our addiction to foreign sources of oil."

The pair said it has found a framework that it believes will gain broad political support, while also reducing emissions, increasing national security and generating jobs. They expressed openness to increased nuclear generation, more domestic oil and gas exploration and production, advancing "clean coal" technologies, and possibly a border tax to prevent an exodus of U.S. jobs to  countries without emissions reduction mandates.

In an argument that has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, Kerry and Graham contend a climate change bill will help avoid onerous regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA has been laying the groundwork for potential regulation with a finding that carbon dioxide emissions are a pollutant, in addition to new rules that will force carbon-intensive companies to begin reporting their emissions.

"The message to those who have stalled for years is clear: killing a Senate bill is not success," Graham and Kerry wrote. "Indeed, given the threat of agency regulation, those who have been content to make the legislative process grind to a halt would later come running to Congress in a panic to secure the kinds of incentives and investments we can pass today."