Why The Climate Bill Is Stuck In Neutral


Now that financial reform has passed through the Senate, is energy next? As always, that's… unclear. A big problem right now is that no one actually seems to be at the forefront of shepherding the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act through the chamber. As Darren Samuelsohn reports, Harry Reid was supposed to take charge of the process, but he's still trying to figure out whether to move ahead with a big climate bill or a smaller "energy-only" bill (which, in its current form, is basically a grab bag of subsidies that wouldn't actually accomplish all that much).

Reid is waiting to see how a couple different things unfold. First, he wants the White House to get actively involved—the way Obama helped salvage a deal at Copenhagen or stepped in during the intra-party skirmishes over the Waxman-Markey climate bill in the House. But so far, the administration has stayed aloof. (That's not too mysterious: According to Eric Pooley's excellent book The Climate War, Rahm Emanuel was extremely skeptical of having the House pass a climate bill, deeming it a political loser.) True, a few officials here and there have tried to make the link between the Gulf spill and energy reform, but the president certainly hasn't been pounding on that connection publicly, and he's done little more than voice perfunctory support for the climate bill.

Lately, a handful of frustrated green groups have begun running ads imploring Obama to get in the game. But this quote from ClimateWire pretty much sums up the state of affairs:

"The silence from the White House is deafening," said a former Clinton-era White House aide. "Clearly without a White House push there does not seem to be adequate political momentum."

The second thing Reid wants is a Republican ally who can help corral a few votes on the other side of the aisle. That point-person used to be Lindsey Graham, until Graham got in a tiff with Reid over immigration and bowed out of the whole process. Will he come back? That seems increasingly unlikely. Here's the latest from the South Carolina Republican:

Since leaving the Kerry-Lieberman talks, Graham has added to his list of demands for what needs to happen before he returns to the bargaining table. Now, Graham says he also wants a resolution to the uncertainty surrounding the month-old Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

"I know we need to enhance on- and offshore drilling, to make us more energy independent, but I'm not willing to say let's go forward boldly now until I find out what happened," he said. ...

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