Climate Outlook: Still Cloudy

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Democrats huddled to talk about different climate and energy strategies on Thursday afternoon, but emerged from the meeting not much closer to an agreement on how to move forward. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wouldn’t offer much in the way of details. “We are not going today to tell you what we’re going to have in this legislation,” Reid told reporters. “It’s a work in progress.”

Reid and other Democrats said they plan to debate an energy package after the July 4 recess. But whether that package will include a price on carbon is unclear. First there was talk of including it in a package, but now it seems like the cap on carbon might get shoved aside again. Senators heard presentations from Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) on his energy bill, John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) talked up their package, Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) talked about the bill she wrote with Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) talked more broadly about the issue, participants said.

Senators said there was no time left for discussion, however, because the explanations of the policies went on for too long. Discussion will come in a future caucus meeting, probably next week. Reid said there were “a number of discussions today as to how we provide what’s best for America,” in response to a question about whether their package next month will include any of these climate plans. “Of course pricing carbon is part of that discussion,” he continued.

Kerry remained confident about getting their measure included in the package following the meeting. “We’re going to work with Harry Reid to put together what the final bill is,” Kerry told reporters. “It’s working pretty well so far. We’re getting to the point where we’re going to pull that together.”

The talk around the Hill today was that Senate Democrats plan to pass an energy-only measure in July and then drag out the conference committee (that’s where they would work out the differences between their measure and what the House passed last June) for a few months so they can get past the November elections. Using this “lame-duck climate strategy” would mean that they put the reconciled package with a price on carbon to a vote in both chambers after the election.

Are they going to go through with that? And, more importantly, would that work? I have my doubts. Today’s big Senate Democratic huddle did little to clear up the picture on that front.

In other climate-related news, Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said that Reid has agreed to give him floor time for his bid to thwart EPA regulation of carbon dioxide, now that the measure from Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was voted down last week (no thanks to Rockefeller on that front, either). Rockefeller didn’t have an anticipated date for a vote on his measure, which would delay EPA regulations for two years.

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