Dems Abandon Comprehensive Energy Legislation

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Light it on fire, and let its carbon pollution soar into the sky unrestricted: climate change legislation is dead.

At a press conference this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the Democrats’ top climate and energy negotiator, acknowledged officially, and with obvious disappointment, that they lack the votes to pass legislation limiting carbon pollution, and that forthcoming energy legislation will be extremely narrow, in a bid to overcome a GOP filibuster.

“Many of us want to do a thorough comprehensive [climate and energy] bill that creates jobs, breaks our addiction to foreign oil, and curbs pollution,” Reid said. “Unfortunately at this time we don’t have a single Republican to work with in achieving this goal. For me it’s terribly disappointing and it’s also very dangerous. So the President, Senator Kerry and I and others, large numbers of my caucus will continue to reach out to Republicans and work with environmental and energy committees, communities, to garner the support we need to move forward on a much larger more comprehensive bill.”In the meantime, Reid said, the Senate will proceed imminently with a much smaller bill that will tackle four goals:

It will deal with BP and oil spill liability, invest in the manufacturing of natural gas vehicles, create a jobs program — formerly called Cash for Caulkers, now called Home Star — aimed at increasing home efficiency, and put money back in the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Kerry described this as an “admittedly narrow, limited bill,” but says he supports Reid’s decision “because he’s committed to do what we can in the time frame that we have before the August break.”

Reid and Kerry, who stood at the mics with President Obama’s EPA chief Carol Browner committed to tackling a larger climate and energy bill as quickly as possible.

“President Obama called me before this meeting and said, point blank, he is committed to working in these next days at a more intensive pace…to help bring together the ability to find 60 votes for that comprehensive legislation,” Kerry said.

But with August recess fast approaching, and members hitting the campaign trail through November, the chances of passing comprehensive legislation this Congress are exceptionally remote.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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