Democrats & Lieberman optimistic about passing a strong energy & climate bill

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, June 24 – After a Democratic caucus meeting Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said there was agreement “on the need to pass strong clean energy legislation to secure our economic future.”

Reid and other senators said the “inspiring” meeting included “strong passions and arguments” rather than specifics. But Reid said that “Whatever form it takes that we're going to move forward, we agree we must deal with the catastrophe in the Gulf, we must create millions of new jobs, we must cut pollution, and it must strengthen our economic security, our national security and our energy independence.”

Pleased with progress toward comprehensive energy & climate legislation, L to R, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA),
Harry Reid (D-NV), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Photo. Agri-Pulse.
Reid predicted that “We’re going to write a bill that sets reasonable goals over a reasonable timeframe that will benefit both our environment and our economy. We’re going to write a bill that can pass the Senate.” Yet Reid also acknowledged that with at least a handful of coal-state and oil-state Democrats opposed to capping greenhouse gas emissions, “we need the cooperation of brave Republicans.”

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said the Democrats' agreed goal is to “put together a bill that we can bring to the floor and pass and have it deal with the whole range of issues related to energy and climate change.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said there was also agreement “on the principle that the polluter pays for the pollution that they create.” He said now is the time to move aggressively on clean energy “to grab ahold of the future and not leave it to China, India, Brazil and other countries that are moving much faster than we are.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said it was a powerful moment in the caucus when Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) held up “heartbreaking pictures of oil washing up on the beaches of Pensacola.” He said the caucus experienced “an uprising of the rank-and-file members of the caucus speaking with passion and purpose in favor of enacting strong, comprehensive energy independence legislation this year.” He said he came away from the meeting confident that “we are going to be able to pass a strong, comprehensive clean energy bill that makes polluters pay.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said the time has come to end America's “one-billion-dollar-a-day addiction to foreign oil” and the time to create millions of new clean energy jobs “when we need to make up for all the jobs that were lost because of the Wall Street crisis.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) pointed out that “the Supreme Court decided more than three years ago now that greenhouse gases were a pollutant, so our government has been trying to respond” in ways which will provide a gradual transition. She noted that if Congress fails to pass legislation, then next January, the U.S. EPA will impose regulatory controls on carbon emissions. She said the best answer is to pass “a bill that gives the certainty and predictability [on] how we are gradually going to reduce CO2 in our environment and make the investments in clean energy that actually produce jobs for America.”

Cantwell said she hopes Republicans will understand that if they block reasonable legislation, such as her cap-and-dividend bill, the result will be an EPA-imposed transition that “won't be as smooth as if we acted here and gave more predictability to business.” She pointed out that developing legislation is a process – and that the next step in the process will be next Tuesday's postponed White House energy meeting in which President Obama will meet with a bipartisan group of 24 senators.

To return to the News Index page, click: