Friedman: Delaying Climate Bill a Disaster

New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman on "Face the Nation," Sunday, April 25, 2010. CBS

Legislation long in the works to tackle climate change, greenhouse gases and renewable energy was put on hold this weekend, amid Democratic efforts to move forward an immigration reform bill - and in the process may lose the bill its Republican sponsor.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who with Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., authored the bill which was to have been unveiled Monday but now is pushed aside in favor of an immigration bill being offered in the Senate. Kerry sought to reassure supporters (which included both environmental groups and some energy companies) that the delay will not be long, but Graham has threatened to pull out because of the Senate maneuvers.

On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, author of "Hot, Flat and Crowded," called the delay in climate legislation "a disaster."

"The administration for its political reasons decided it wants to elevate immigration," Friedman told anchor Bob Schieffer. "Lindsey Graham is completely isolated on the Republican side. I think he freaked out a little bit here at the end. And the result is, Bob, right now in Beijing, they're high-fiving each other: 'Oh, yeah, baby!'

"This means the Americans will be paralyzed on green tech for another couple of years. China is already leading the world now in wind production and already leading the world in solar production. Where an industry goes, research goes."

Friedman said the political calculations meant moving ahead on an immigration bill which, he said, "you don't need." But maybe Harry Reid does.

"I think they're worried that Harry Reid is going to lose in Nevada where you have a big Hispanic vote," Friedman said. "Hispanics are very concerned about an immigration bill that will bring legality to illegal immigrants. Barbara Boxer is vulnerable in California. The president has done and talked a lot on green energy; a lot of people in the White House prefer to talk about that. Keep us distracted [with a] shiny object."

But basically, Friedman said, "they're interested in the raw politics."

And despite claims by White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers that Congress can move forward on both immigration and climate change, Friedman had his doubts:

"First of all, good luck! Immigration is probably the most hotly-divided issue in the Senate," he said. "We already had the House pass an energy bill - it was waiting in the Senate. We have an energy Senate bill. [Yet] there is no immigration bill anywhere.

"This is about politics, on both sides. Lindsey Graham? Shame on the Republican Party. There's one Republican for advancing green energy in this country? One Republican Senator dared step out? He's completely isolated, and the Democrats are worried about Harry Reid."
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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