Senate Majority Leader Reid will abandon efforts to pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill before the August recess, going forward instead with a bill that includes measures to address the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, job-creation provisions like Home Star and measures designed to reduce oil dependency, he said today.
The news follows a weeklong eleventh-hour push by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., to garner support for their proposal to price carbon emissions of power plants.
Speaking after meeting with the Democratic caucus today, Reid, Kerry and Carol Browner, President Obama's top aide on climate and energy, blamed Republicans for denying them the votes to pass a larger energy bill with provisions such as a renewable electricity standard or a price on carbon emissions. They also defended what environmental groups and some liberal Democrats have seen as a lack of effort by Obama to push the climate and energy bill past the finish line.
"We have a responsibility -- both to our constituents and our children -- to take on America's energy challenge. Many of us want to do that through a comprehensive bill that creates jobs, breaks our addiction to oil and curbs pollution," Reid said. "Unfortunately, at this time, not one Republican wants to join us in achieving this goal."
The Senate could debate the oil-spill legislation next week, a Democratic leadership aide said, but that depends on the progress the chamber makes on other items on its agenda, including the small-business loans program, war supplemental spending bill and the vote on Solicitor General Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court.
Reid said his decision does not mean a larger piece of legislation is not possible in the fall or later. That may be the only silver lining for liberal Democratic senators and environmental groups, who have been urging Reid to keep pressing to pass a bill with a price on carbon emissions.
Environmental groups and utility associations who have been engaged in intense negotiations for the last few weeks about a cap-and-trade system for the utility sector say that with more time, they could reach a consensus - a belief emphasized by Kerry and Lieberman this week.
But the chance of bringing up a comprehensive energy and climate bill does not get easier down the road. Senators will be busy with midterm elections and other legislative items between September and the end of the year. And it is widely expected Republicans will gain seats in both the House and Senate, making it even more difficult to pass legislation with a price on carbon next year.
This article appears in the July 24, 2010, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.