Monday, October 19, 2009

Why S.C. senator now backs climate legislation

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 10:41 AM

Last week, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham made news when he signed on to help out with Sen. John Kerry's climate change bill. But, what does he want in return? (Answer: A lot.)

When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for legislation last week to cap carbon emissions, he revived hopes that a cap-and-trade measure could pass the Senate this year. (He also got branded a "wussypants" by tea party protesters for his trouble.) But while the support of a prominent conservative senator could pave the way for the passage of climate legislation, Graham's backing comes at a steep price: he's pushing for massive payouts to the nuclear industry, along with other environmentally questionable provisions.

While the South Carolina Republican has long acknowledged the scientific evidence for climate change, he's never been particularly vocal on the issue. Nor is he known for maverick stances: he’s voted the GOP party line 90.7 percent of the time, according to the Washington Post's vote-tracking database. Even though he's Sen. John McCain's best buddy in Congress (McCain affectionately refers to Graham as his "little jerk"), Graham even voted against a cap-and-trade proposal that McCain introduced in 2003 and 2005. Now, by throwing his weight behind climate action at a critical juncture, Graham has become a key power broker on the issue practically overnight.

But he wants something in return. The New York Times op-ed Graham co-authored with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) makes it clear that there are a number of issues motivating his unexpected move: the looming Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, growing awareness that climate change is a national security concern, and fear that inaction threatens America's economic future. But most of all, Graham appears to see the bill as a major opportunity to advance the cause of nuclear power.

Read more from Mother Jones.

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