Climate Details, Still TBD

What happened at yesterday’s huddle on climate and energy legislation at the White House? There have been vague reports of general agreement from the senators who participated in the meeting, but still no details yet on what kind og legislation might materialize in the Senate and which lawmakers might support it.

The meeting included six Republicans and eight Democrats, all seen as key to the climate and energy debate. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaksa), who is leading Senate efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide pollution, told Mother Jones on Wednesday that there was “good agreement” on “general principles,” “but as with anything the devil is always in the details.” “At this point in time I think we’re still in a lot of talking stages,” said Murkowski.

Other senators seemed to have a similarly vague observations after the meeting.”There was a lot of progress,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Wednesday. Brown noted, however, that yesterday’s talks didn’t really go into details about the anticipated legislation from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), but that he expects to see more specifics in the next few weeks.

President Obama participated in the 70-minute conversation as well, though it’s not clear how much he weighed in on specifics, other than expressing “strong support for a bipartisan effort to establish clean energy incentives,” a White House aide told The Hill.

Greenwire notes that Kerry said they are “moving very rapidly” and are “now down to dealing with specific language and negotiating with various interested parties.”

But in conversations with Senate staffers, it doesn’t seem like they have seen many specifics yet, even following yesterday’s big meeting. Staffers and environmental lobbyists say that they have still seen only an outline of a bill that includes a lot of open ends on both the mechanism for pricing carbon and energy incentives. And of course, whether senators will support an eventual bill depends a whole lot on how Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman fill in those blanks. The group that met at the White House yesterday was fairly representative of the constituencies needed to get a bill passed this year – coal states, manufacturing states, sympathetic Republicans and strong environmental advocates like Barbar Boxer (D-Calif.)–and whether or not the trio can get their support is going to be key to getting to 60 votes. “I think if this group continues to work together, we can get something done on this, this year,” Lieberman said after the meeting.

Kerry has said that they will release a draft of legislation before the Easter recess, but it sure sounds like they have a long way to go in figuring out exactly what that bill will look like.


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