By Libby Casey
A Republican Senator negotiating climate change legislation left a White House meeting today saying NOW is the time to act on energy policy. South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham has been working for months with Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut on a bipartisan climate change bill. Graham said this evening outside the White House that comprehensive legislation can create jobs, diminish dependence on foreign oil, and improve the environment – and he wants members of his party to get engaged.
If you’re a Republican, and you believe drill baby drill, now’s your chance. If you’re a Republican Independent or Democrat who believes in nuclear power, now’s your chance. And I hope every American would support clean air. Now’s your chance, don’t water down a chance to transform our economy.
Graham was one of six Republican Senators invited to the White House by President Obama. Senator Lisa Murkowski also attended, but she avoided talking to reporters afterward. She has not put out a statement commenting on the meeting, even though she was the only member of the Republican leadership team there.
The closed-door gathering also included several cabinet members – among them Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson, with whom Murkowski disagrees on E-P-A regulations.
Seven Democrats and the Independent Lieberman were in the room, too. All the Senators invited are considered key to the current climate debate, or are swing votes.
Maine Republican Susan Collins told reporters on the way out of the White House that President Obama says he still wants Congress to pass a climate bill this year.
But many hurdles stand in the way, including whether emissions should be capped, and whether a carbon trading system should be set up. Senator Graham supports carbon pricing, and says he wants a broad bill, rather than a piecemeal approach.
I’ve said it pretty bluntly, I won’t support a half-ass energy bill. Because that’s what it will become. It will become a watered-down energy bill where we can go back home and say we did good things. And the truth is, we’ll go back home and we’re no more independent of foreign oil than we were when the bill passed.
Graham and the other Senators say the White House didn’t lay-out details of what IT is willing to put on the table. But Independent Senator Lieberman says all sides will have to compromise, including the Whtie House.
When the three of us got together, to make this happen for the country, every one of us had to leave their comfort zone. And the president left his comfort zone when he in his State of the Union when he came out for more nuclear power and more drilling for oil and gas in America. And what we hope for in return is support for some of the other programs that have traditionally been of concern to democrats or even independents.
Lieberman, Kerry and Graham say they’re working on an offshore drilling component to their bill. In the meantime, Alaska’s delegation is waiting to hear what direction the Administration actually takes on offshore development. Officials have said they are aiming to announce new drilling policies in the coming weeks, which could greatly affect Alaska.