Senate Democrats to Obama on energy bill: Help us
Senate Democrats feel pressure to 'do something' on the long-stalled energy bill. The Gulf oil spill has widened the partisan divide. The White House will hold a bipartisan meeting Wednesday.
Senate Democrats are taking a fresh run at energy legislation this week, beginning with a bipartisan White House meeting on Wednesday and a Democratic caucus meeting on Thursday to find common ground.Skip to next paragraph
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The hope that the Gulf oil spill disaster might break partisan deadlock as 9/11 did – leading to a flood of new legislation – has not come to pass. So far, it has only reinforced the partisan tensions.
Moreover, Democrats are divided among themselves on the way forward. Options range from a comprehensive energy and climate change bill that sets caps for carbon emissions on one hand to two competing measures that establish renewable-energy mandates for utility companies. None of these options has the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate without a filibuster – or even to muster all the Democratic votes.
To get a bill, President Obama will have to take a stronger role.
“It's pretty clear that we have to do something,” said Senate majority leader Harry Reid after a caucus luncheon on Tuesday. “A lot depends on what the White House is going to do to help us get something done."
Democrats' search for 60
In the run-up to Wednesday's meeting, Senate Democrats have been proposing scaled-down versions of energy legislation in a bid to get to 60 votes.
“I’m working with a number of colleagues now, Republicans and Democrats alike, to look at alternative ways we might be able to scale back,” said Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, a co-sponsor of climate change legislation that includes pricing carbon, on MSNBC.
“What the political market will bear at best is a scaled-down version,” says Sen. Lindsay Graham (R) of South Carolina, who broke off talks with Kerry on this bill in April. “With a weak economy, an economy-wide cap on carbon is probably not going to sell."
"Putting a business-friendly emissions control on utilities is in the realm of possibility, and that would make clean coal, nuclear, wind, and solar more affordable," he adds.