Sunday U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, broke ranks with Republicans. The Senator announced that he is working with a Democratic colleague on climate change legislation.
Graham co-authored an op-ed in The New York Times with Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts that said they believe they have found a “framework for climate legislation” that can pass Congress, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary.
The senators warned that if Congress doesn’t act, the Obama administration will use the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new regulations that would likely be tougher and lack job protections.
Graham and Kerry called for an “aggressive” reduction of carbon gases, financial incentives for “clean coal,” a streamlined permit process for nuclear power plants and a border tax on items produced in countries that don’t accept environmental standards.
They would minimize the impact on major emitters through a “market-based system” that would give them time to comply with carbon-gas reductions, Greenville News reports.
Kansas City Star quoted Kerry and Graham’s statement, "We refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change."
"We are also convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future."
Graham's action is significant because it is a break from the official GOP position that climate change legislation would hurt the U.S. economy.
Many energy companies, especially coal interests, have been campaigning against the bill in Washington because it could raise their costs of doing business.
A climate change bill that would cap and trade emissions would raise costs to consumers. But some kind of penalty is needed to coerce U.S. industries into reducing their harmful emissions, Kansas City Star reports.
In the meantime, President Obama is coming under renewed pressure internationally and in the United States to throw his weight behind climate-change legislation, which advocates fear has suffered in light of the president's sweeping domestic agenda.
The Nobel committee's announcement Friday that Obama won the Peace Prize was a fresh reminder that much of the world expects him to lead the way toward a global climate pact. The committee cited his "more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges."
And in Washington, advocates are clamoring for more evidence that Obama will make good on his campaign promise to impose the first-ever national cap on greenhouse gases. Last week, the leading author of Senate climate legislation sought personal assurances from Obama during an Oval Office meeting, saying he wanted to "hear it from him directly" as he pushed ahead, The Washington Post reports.