U.S. Senate: Democrats Deeply Divided On Climate Bill
Photo courtesy heartsr3.
By Juliet Eilperin
WASHINGTON – The climate change bill that has been moving slowly through the Senate faces a stark political reality when it is read in committee this week: with Democrats deeply divided on the issue, unless some Republican lawmakers risk the backlash for signing on to the climate change legislation, there is almost no hope for passage.
For all the effort of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to keep Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as his most visible GOP ally, key Republicans are making their opposition clear.
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee who was initially seen as one of the only Republicans who might consider backing the majority, is now helping lead the opposition.
He wrote Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson twice this summer to ask for a more detailed economic analysis of the House-passed climate bill, and he has joined the other six Republicans on the committee in boycotting the climate bill markup scheduled for Tuesday.
“Why are we trying to jam down this legislation now?” he asked during a hearing last week. “Wouldn’t it be smarter to take our time and do it right?”
Like the bill adopted by the House, the legislation favors a cap-and-trade system that would issue permits for greenhouse gas emissions, gradually lower the amount of emissions allowed, and let companies buy and sell permits to meet their needs.
The bill has deeply divided Democrats. With states in the Midwest, South and Rocky Mountain West dependent on fossil fuels for energy, many senators are worried about the legislation’s impact on industry and consumers.
So Democratic leaders, with the support of the Obama administration, are trying to enlist at least half a dozen Republicans by offering amendments to speed along their top priority – building nuclear power plants.
Graham has suggested provisions on nuclear power and offshore oil drilling could win his support for a cap-and-trade climate bill; Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, has established a bipartisan working group of 17 Senate offices that is close to producing a detailed amendment aimed at speeding the construction of U.S. nuclear reactors.
But it remains unclear if that approach holds currency in the current era of political polarization. One of the top Republicans that Democrats hope to enlist in this effort – Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, whom Graham and Kerry recently buttonholed on the Senate floor – has voiced skepticism about the bill Kerry had authored along with Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
“A tepid nuclear title isn’t enough to get her to support a bad climate bill,” said Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Boxer.
Copyright 2009, WP
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