Senate Democrats May Delay Climate Legislation

Washington, DC (September 15, 2009)- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that Senate Democrats may wait until 2010 to take up climate change legislation because of the competing priorities of health care and financial regulatory reform. Reid said, “We are going to have a busy, busy time the rest of this year, and, of course, nothing terminates at the end of this year. We still have next year to complete things if we have to.”

President Obama has stated that he wants the Senate to pass a climate change bill this year because the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is convening in Copenhagen in December. Jim Manley, Reid’s spokesman, later insisted that “no decisions have been made” regarding the timing of a Senate climate change bill. He added, “We still intend to deal with health care, financial regulatory reform and cap and trade this year.”
European Union Ambassador to the United States John Burton said that the Senate delaying climate change legislation for other domestic priorities is unacceptable. “The United States is just one of the 190 countries coming to this conference,” Bruton said, “but the United States emits 25 percent of all the greenhouse gases that the conference is trying to reduce. I submit that asking an international conference to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position.”
Reid was not the only Democratic leader on Capitol Hill yesterday to suggest the climate bill may need to take a back seat amid President Obama’s all-out push on health care and financial reform. “I think its increasingly difficult to have a climate change bill done before the end of the year,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), the chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said the timing for the climate bill this year depends in large part on how Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) handle the drafting of their proposal over the coming weeks. “I don’t know what Senator Reid is going to decide,” Bingaman said. “I don’t think he’ll make a judgment until he sees what comes forward in the way of cap-and-trade legislation.”
Boxer and Kerry had originally planned to release a draft cap-and-trade bill last week, but they punted on that schedule to continue negotiations with other senators over unfinished pieces to their proposal. Yesterday, Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he and Boxer still plan to get the draft legislation out by Sept. 30. “We have a mental deadline,” Kerry said. “We are aiming for this month.”
Several Democrats on the committee, including Dorgan and Washington’s Maria Cantwell, said they were not sure the House-passed climate bill was the best vehicle for Congress to try and pass into law. Before the hearing, Dorgan said he had spoken to Obama and Reid about trying to move an energy bill on its own this year while holding back on the cap-and-trade provisions. “I’ve not convinced anybody, but I’m not finished,” he said.
Several Senate Republicans also took aim yesterday at Democrats as they push for the comprehensive climate package. Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a past co-sponsor of a Bingaman-led cap-and-trade bill, questioned the economic consequences that would come if the House legislation became law. “Instead of lightening the load, it asks Americans to shoulder more, oblivious to how difficult that will be,” Murkowski said, adding that it was “essential” to include some type of protection in a Senate bill to prevent against wild price spikes. Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) said he doubts a climate bill can lead to any positive results. “What do we get in terms of actual economic benefit from controlling greenhouse gas emissions?” he asked.
Related Resources:
New York Times- Senate Democrats May Delay Climate Legislation
American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009