The long-awaited Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill saw more delays this week as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) abandoned efforts to work with Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) on the legislation, citing frustration with reports that indicated congressional leadership and the administration were prioritizing immigration over climate and energy legislation.

Sen. Graham said in a letter (PDF) this weekend that the plans by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to expedite immigration legislation had “destroyed [his] confidence that there will be a serious commitment and focus to move energy legislation this year.”

“I am very disappointed with this turn of events and believe their decision flies in the face of commitments made weeks ago to Senators Kerry, Lieberman and me. I deeply regret that election year politics will impede, if not derail, our efforts to make our nation energy independent,” he wrote.

The move threatens to derail the bill, and it is unclear how the energy bill will progress in the Senate because it relied heavily on participation and support from Graham—the only Republican to have formally endorsed the approach dealing with climate change and energy.

But hours after Graham released his letter, Kerry said in a statement he and Lieberman would continue to work together on the proposal. “We have to press forward,” he wrote. “Lindsey has helped to build an unprecedented coalition of stakeholders from the environmental community and the industry who have been prepared to stand together behind a proposal. That can’t change. We can’t allow this moment to pass us by.”

White House and climate advisor Carol Browner also issued a statement commending the senators for their joint efforts. She also wrote that the administration was determined to pass a climate bill in the Senate this year. “We encourage the Senators to continue their
important work on behalf of the country and not walk away from the progress that’s
already been made.”

In related news, Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) floated a draft proposal that would bar the president, federal agencies, and state and local governments from taking action to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions independent of federal climate legislation.

The proposal goes farther (PDF) than previous initiatives to preempt GHG regulation in that it would preclude federal action not only under the Clean Air Act but also any other federal statutes, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act. The proposal also seeks to preempt civil litigation based on climate damages, such as tort and public nuisance lawsuits.

In a statement released last week, Voinovich said that to address climate change effectively, he believed it would have to be done through a single, national program that replaced the “existing, conflicting patchwork of rules, regulations, and lawsuits.” The senator also said that to get his support on a climate change bill, it would have to include “a comprehensive preemption provision that goes well beyond language included in previous climate bills.”

Voinovich’s proposal reportedly has the support of  Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who circulated a similar but less-sweeping draft preemption bill, but not Sen. Kerry, who has told reporters he cannot support the measure.

Sources: Sen. Graham, Sen. Kerry, Sen. Voinovich, POWERnews