In a mid-day press conference with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) that followed a meeting with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said:
We think we have a good team here to help create a dual track which we want to emphasize is done with the full consent and support of Sen. Boxer and of other senators involved in this process including the Majority Leader, Harry Reid. We will be working very, very closely with the administration and fully respectful of all of the efforts made by each individual committee with jurisdiction in this area. And there are six of them. I happen to be chair of one. But there are five others. And they’re all equally important in their contributions to this.
Our effort is to try to reach out to broaden the base of support beyond the six committees of jurisdiction. And we’re going to do that working very closely with the chairs of those committees as well as with members across the Senate. The key here is to really negotiate once in a sense, not negotiate with ourselves and not negotiate just in the Senate and then not have the White House also at the table.
So we just completed a meeting with Secretary Chu, talking about his department’s parameters that might and might not be acceptable with respect to this legislation. We’re meeting this afternoon, the three of us, with Secretary Salazar and with Carol Browner who, as we all know, is the point person for the White House on this topic. We will be working closely with the White House over the course of the next weeks with a few to trying to pull together what ultimately could be presented to Sen. Reid and the leadership as a piece of legislation that we hope could get the 60 votes necessary to pass or more, and we would hope it would be more.
Brad Johnson at Wonk Room has Graham’s remarkable remarks and this video:
While other Senate Republicans led by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) boycott action on the climate crisis, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has chosen a leadership role. In a press conference today with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the author of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Graham rebuked Republicans unwilling to address carbon pollution, asking, “If you can’t participate in solving a hard problem, why are you up here?” Saying that he has “seen the effects of a warming planet,” Graham called for the United States to “lead the world rather than follow the world on carbon pollution”:
The green economy is coming. We can either follow or lead. And those countries who follow will pay a price. Those nations who lead in creating the new green economy for the world will make money.
Graham’s words recall the testimony of former Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and White House official Van Jones, who told Congress in January, “We can build a green economy Dr. King would be proud of.” Van Jones, the founder of Green for All, left the White House after talk show host Glenn Beck targeted him as an “avowed communist and radical activist.” Beck has warned that efforts to build a green economy are “socialism,” “black nationalism,” and “fascism.”
Sen. Kerry announced that the three senators would work in a “dual track” to the committee process now underway to craft clean energy legislation in concert with the White House, which they hope to present directly to the Senate leadership. The senators conducted the press conference in between meetings with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and White House climate advisor Carol Browner.
Graham also discussed how Americans of any party “really feel uncomfortable with the fact that our nation sends a billion dollars a day overseas to buy foreign oil from some countries who don’t like us very much,” saying that part of “this initiative is to create a vision for energy independence and marry it up with a responsible climate control carbon pollution controls and create a new economy.”
Graham emphasized that his vision is to “help this planet” that “is in peril, create millions of new jobs for Americans that need them, and to become energy independent to make us safer,” because he believes that “controlling carbon pollution is good business.” Although he hoped for participation from his fellow Republicans, he said, “If you believe carbon pollution is not a problem, then you wouldn’t want to work with me, because I do.”
GRAHAM: The reason I’ve gotten involved in this issue is I see kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity politically to solve two real problems that I think the country and the world faces. One, carbon pollution. I am no scientist, but I’ve traveled throughout the world with Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) and others and seen the effects of a warming planet. And I do believe all of the cars we have on the roads, and the trucks, and all the energy we use that produces carbon daily is not a good thing for the planet.
But if environmental policy is not good business policy, you’ll never get 60 votes. So my goal is to try to make sure that we fashion environmental policy that will create millions of new jobs for Americans who are desiring to have new jobs. Virginia and New Jersey are going to benefit from what we do. South Carolina, Connecticut, and Massachusetts will benefit.
The green economy is coming. We can either follow or lead. And those countries who follow will pay a price. Those nations who lead in creating the new green economy for the world will make money. The business community senses an opportunity they’ve not had before. That’s why they’re at least exploring the possibility of a new pathway forward.
I’ve been told by a lot of business leaders in South Carolina, “Senator Graham, once you price carbon in a reasonable way, this green economy that we’re hoping for really will begin to flourish.”
The other aspect of why I’m involved is energy independence. Remember “Drill here, drill now”? Where did that go? Four dollar a gallon gas is not in our face but it could be soon. I think most Americans — Republicans, independents, or Democrats — really feel uncomfortable with the fact that our nation sends a billion dollars a day overseas to buy foreign oil from some countries who don’t like us very much. Part of this initiative is to create a vision for energy independence and marry it up with a responsible climate control carbon pollution controls and create a new economy.
Finally, our country doesn’t have a vision on carbon. We need one. And we need to lead the world rather than follow the world on carbon pollution. Our country doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to build a green economy and never will until we price carbon.
And our country doesn’t have a vision for energy independence. We need one. Our goal is to create that vision that not only will help this planet — that I think is in peril — but create millions of new jobs for Americans that need them, and to become energy independent to make us safer.
. . .
What I’ve got to do is convince people in South Carolina and our colleagues up here as a whole that environmental policy will be good business policy. And if Congress doesn’t act, the EPA will.
Every member of Congress, Republicans included, has to answer to themselves and their constituents. Is carbon pollution a problem? If it is, what are you going to do about it? Some Republicans want a carbon tax. In many ways, that is a fairer system but I don’t think there are the votes for it. If you believe carbon pollution is not a problem, then you wouldn’t want to work with me, because I do. Now, if you … a cap-and-trade bill has to be well-crafted not to put us at competitive disadvantage to China and India.
I am convinced with my colleagues that controlling carbon pollution is good business. If you do it right, people can make money and you’ll have a cleaner planet and the world will follow. So I hope my Republican colleagues will at least listen, come to the table as the Chamber has, see where we’re going, give us input and if at the end of the day, you can’t support it, that’s okay.
But last thought. Doing nothing has a consequence. The EPA will do something. Doing nothing has a consequence to our business opportunity in leading the green economy revolution that’s coming and controlling carbon emissions.
So I think most people are upset with the Congress because we’re not doing anything that matters. And the things that we do do we’re overdoing. So we’re trying to get that sweet spot of a bill that will be good for the environment, good for business, and make us energy independent.
So my hope is that participation is seen as a positive, not a negative. If you can’t participate in solving a hard problem, why are you up here?