Graham, Whitehouse optimistic for bipartisan climate compromise

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), frequent across-the-aisle collaborators, are talking up the possibility of cooperation on climate change in their chamber.

The lawmakers have different ideas on the exact way to approach the issue, but both agree there are possibilities to bridge what is otherwise a deep partisan divide.

“There are people of goodwill who are widely respected Republicans who are willing to get to work on this,” Whitehouse said during an event on Capitol Hill yesterday about energy and security.

The climate action hawk reeled off a list of Republicans and adjectives to describe their work on climate: Graham and Sen. John McCain of Arizona are “brave”; Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are “sincere”; and Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker earned the lesser distinction of “interested.”

But, Whitehouse said, to make real progress against global warming, those people will need a stronger push from corporate America.

“In a strange way, the embarrassing, blind, willful ignorance of [President] Trump and many of his cohorts on this subject has actually provoked more of a reaction from the business community,” Whitehouse said.

“It’s not organized yet, and it doesn’t yet look like political tanks and artillery, just well-meaning people talking,” he said. “That’s not quite what they need. But it’s getting closer, and it is making a difference.”

Whitehouse advocated, like many times in the past, for a carbon fee, an approach Graham does not see as viable. Instead, the South Carolina Republican wants lawmakers to embrace clean energy.

“The way forward, I think, is to look at R&D [research and development] at the federal level. A lot of Republicans I think would take the Bill Gates idea and make it real, to start giving tax advantages to alternative energy like you do fossil fuels,” he said.

Graham also echoed those who have said that framing climate change as a national security issue can be a bridge to action for Republicans (Greenwire, March 27).

“From a national security side, retired generals and admirals, the more you speak about the national security implications, the easier it is for a Republican to get involved,” he said.

Graham said he was optimistic that his side of the aisle would come around. “The Republican Party of the future I think is going to be more environmentally sensitive, not less, because that’s where the political market’s going,” he said.

And if it fails to do so, Whitehouse said he thinks that will have major consequences. “A lot of our Republican colleagues, particularly looking at 2018, are looking at this as a big potential problem for them,” he said.

Graham said, “I predict progress. And if we can ever get Trump’s attention for five minutes, he may surprise us all. As a matter of fact, I’m sure he will.”