Democrats Walk Away from Climate Bill

Democrats Walk Away from Climate Bill

Image CC licensed by Flickr user alltrain43

Senate Democrats on Thursday gave up trying to pass a climate bill before their August recess that would have capped greenhouse gas emissions, citing a lack of time and Republican support.

Instead Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will pursue a drastically pared down bill that will focus mostly on raising the liability cap for oil spills, along with measures promoting energy efficiency, natural gas for transportation, and land conservation. A cap-and-trade program and renewable energy standard will not be included in the bill, expected to be introduced next week.

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a climate change bill last summer that would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Subsequently in the Senate, two cap-and-trade bills stalled, leading John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) to explore a narrower but similarly-fated bill that would have capped emissions from the utility sector.

Thursday's development puts the future of climate change legislation in further doubt, with Democrats bracing for midterm election losses that will erode their majorities in the House and Senate.

Although Reid blamed Republicans for failing to support a climate change bill, he never had the full support of all Democrats. Several Democrats from coal-producing regions had long voiced concern over how such a bill would impact their home states.

Reid and Kerry made assurances Thursday that the Senate would continue working on comprehensive climate change legislation.

"As Senator Reid said, this legislation that he has proposed does not replace climate legislation," Kerry said during a press conference. "It does not replace comprehensive energy legislation. Now President Obama called me before this meeting and said point blank that he is committed to working in these next days at a more intensive pace together with Carol Browner and other members of the administration to help bring together the ability to find 60 votes for that comprehensive legislation."

There is a chance that Senators may add more provisions to the slimmer bill, but such measures would likely be minor.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user alltrain43.