Will Climate Legislation Get Shoved Aside Again?

| Mon Jun. 7, 2010 4:59 PM EDT

There was talk late last week that the climate and energy package might be revamped and rebranded as the "BP Spill Bill," a package that combines the energy bill passed last summer, the carbon-reduction provisions in the bill from John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and new rules governing the oil industry. But the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate today suggested that climate provisions would have to come in the form of an amendment – making their future this year even more bleak.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Monday that he expects that the energy bill that passed last summer will likely serve as the starting point for the package. That measure, authored by Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), has been criticize as a "flashback to Bush energy policy," since it lacks any kind of cap on carbon and contains many concessions to the oil, coal, gas, and nuclear industries. That bill, said Schumer in an appearance on MSNBC, would be "the base bill upon which John Kerry will seek to add his bill," likely in the form of an amendment.

"Kerry has a proposal that has pretty broad support," said Schumer. "He's going, in my opinion, going to get a chance to offer it in the form of an amendment."

Schumer tried to put a positive spin on it, but making climate a mere add-on would be a major setback for Kerry's drive to get the bill passed this year. Combining it with the oil spill-related provisions created an opportunity for an issue that has been less than palatable for many Democrats this year. "Of course, the extreme people on each side say it's not good enough," said Schumer. "But he's done a damn good job, and he's going to, in my opinion, get a chance to offer that amendment, and we'll see if it has the votes."

A Schumer spokesman walked back from the comments in an email to the National Journal, saying that "no decisions have been made yet on the floor strategy for legislation." Kerry and Schumer are supposed to meet later this week to discuss plans. Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will ultimately be responsible for uniting legislation into a single package, is slated to meet with Kerry, Bingaman, and other committee chairs on Thursday to discuss the measure.

There's a lot going on this week in climate-related news. This morning, Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) was slated to introduce his own energy package, an alternative to the Kerry-Lieberman bill, at a press conference, but it was delayed due to a flight cancellation. Lugar outlined the measure back in March, which mostly relies on improved fuel economy standards and a massive expansion of nuclear power, with no firm limits on carbon pollution. There was a range of reactions from environmental groups on the Lugar effort, noting basically that his measure doesn't do enough on climate, but that it should be taken as a positive sign that he wants to engage on the subject. Ever since Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) walked away from the Kerry-Lieberman effort, the bill has been lacking any Republican support.

Also this week, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is planning to offer her measure to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. As of last count, she had 41 votes lined up for the measure, which requires 51 votes to pass.

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