Democrats Divided on Path Forward for Climate/Energy Bill

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Senate Democrats “remain deeply divided over how or whether to debate energy and climate change legislation this month, with some suggesting Tuesday that the party should do little or nothing on the politically charged topic so close to the midterm elections,” Roll Call reports.

Senate Democratic sources said the only thing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is likely to bring up during any potential energy debate next week is a narrow bill dealing with oil spill liability and possibly some modest provisions dealing with renewable energy and “green jobs.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Reid laid out a variety of options during Democrats’ regular Tuesday lunch, but that Democrats face a dilemma when it comes to deciding whether to bring up a bill that would create a cap-and-trade style system to limit greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.

“There’s an irony to it,” Carper said. “You’ve got a situation where some people won’t vote for a bill that doesn’t begin to address carbon and some people won’t vote for a bill which does address carbon even in a modest way.”

Carper added, “one option would be to do nothing, which I think is a very bad option.”

The reality of the current situation:

A senior Senate Democratic aide said Democrats have not been able to make any inroads with Republicans on broader climate issues, and they still lack centrist Democrats’ support for a measure that would cap greenhouse gases.

“There are not 60 votes for just about anything right now,” the aide said. “We don’t have enough time to seriously legislate on this issue.” The aide blamed the time constraints on the GOP’s continual efforts to delay or block most bills moving through the chamber.

Lame-duck action?

Given the lack of support for the bill, even climate change champions have begun to warn that bringing a comprehensive bill to the floor, only to see it fail to garner even a bare majority, could be a serious setback to the cause. Instead, they have been arguing that the debate might be better-suited for later in the year, or even during a lame-duck session after the November election.

“I know there’s a certain awkwardness in a lame-duck session, but these are big and important issues regarding energy independence,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) said.

Lieberman, who co-authored a major climate change measure with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), said electric company CEOs have urged the duo to give the debate more time and that they are concerned about plans to cap carbon emissions for utilities only.

A decision could be made on Thursday.

“We’re going to make a decision in the near future,” Reid said. “We’re going to have a caucus on Thursday where we’re going to talk about a number of things, two things, one of which is energy.”

(credit image – daylife/associated press)

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