Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly referred to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid as House majority leader.

Climate change bill shouldn't fall victim to immigration reform

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

IS THE Senate climate bill doomed? It certainly took a hit Saturday, when Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), hitherto the bill's lone Republican backer, threatened to abandon the effort. Mr. Graham, who had worked with Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) for months on the bill, derided Democratic leaders for opening the way to take up immigration reform before the climate bill, calling the move "a cynical political ploy" and claiming that it endangered the climate effort. He has a point.

Painstaking negotiations on the substance of a compromise climate bill are nearly complete. Mr. Graham, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lieberman have gone to extraordinary lengths to attract a coalition of supporters, including environmental groups, electric utilities, businesses, the Christian Coalition and even oil companies. Fence-sitting senators concerned about the bill's effects on manufacturing and American competitiveness seem to be coming around to the idea of pricing carbon. This emerging coalition, backers claim, is still behind the bill.

In contrast, there is no comparable groundwork that would lead to an immigration bill's passage. But at least some Democrats say they believe the politics of immigration reform are more favorable to them than the politics of climate legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) faces a tough reelection battle, where a sizable Hispanic population wants to see him make an effort to achieve reform. We understand the politics, and we support immigration reform. If it's possible to accomplish something this year, great. But Mr. Reid and the White House should not allow immigration to push climate change so far down the calendar that it becomes impossible for the Senate to take up. And all parties -- including Mr. Graham -- should keep in mind that the politics of climate change are likely to be harder next year, when Democratic majorities will probably be slimmer. Defeat or postponement now could fracture the coalition behind the effort.

Politics aside, it's past time that Congress dealt with climate change. Businesses face stifling uncertainty about the shape of inevitable climate legislation. World leaders wonder when America will finally lead on global warming. And every year Congress waits to legislate, adequately curbing emissions will get harder and more expensive. Any comprehensive climate bill will require the support of at least a few Republicans to pass. We hope Mr. Graham and his Democratic partners find a way not to miss this opportunity.


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