The Little Climate Bill That Couldn’t

Not to sound like a broken record here, but Senate Democrats emerged from today’s caucus lunch with, yet again, not much to say in the way of details on their energy package. And even in the wake of the worst environmental disaster in US history, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Senate will not only fumble climate legislation, but even fail to move a basic package of energy reforms in response to the oil spill.

“We’re really not at the point where I can determine what I think is best for the caucus,” Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters following the meeting, when asked if there were any new details on the package, which they are supposed to start debating next week. Reid also noted that they haven’t yet drawn any Republicans to work on a package. “Everyone is focusing all the attention on us. We’re trying to find a Republican or two or three … We haven’t given up on that.”

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told reporters that they spent about five minutes on the subject of an energy package. Reid walked them through several options on a bill, one with a carbon cap and one without it, and gave senators more time to think about it.

Other senators are just getting testy about the issue. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of the few Democrats still considered “on the fence” when it comes to including climate provisions, flatly refused to discuss the issue with reporters. “I’m not going to talk about energy. I got burned twice last week,” said McCaskill, indicating that some unnamed reporter had misquoted. McCaskill is one of the Democrats folks are watching most closely on this issue, since she has yet to weigh in publicly one way or another. I have no idea what quote she is referring to as having been wrong.

Republicans, including one who was once viewed as a potential ally on climate, are also not looking any more amenable to an energy package at all this year, with or without a carbon cap. “Anybody that’s been in the Senate for any period of time knows there’s no way that an energy bill is going to get done between now and the election, and for that matter, now and the end of the year,” George Voinovich (R-Ohio) told reporters. “Anybody that’s being intellectually honest has got to say we do not have the time to do anything meaningful at this point in time when it comes to climate change.”

Voinovich, who is retiring after this year, didn’t offer much hope that he would come around to working with Democrats on a package. “I’m only going to spend my time on stuff I think might make a difference,” he said.