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Harry Reid: Senate will abandon cap-and-trade energy reform

Senate majority leader Harry Reid said Thursday that Democrats faced too much Republican opposition to pass a comprehensive cap-and-trade energy reform bill. The Senate will pursue a scaled down version.

By Staff writer, Tarini PartiContributor / July 22, 2010

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), center, with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), left, and Director of the White House office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner, talk to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, July 22. Senate Democrats abandoned plans to pass a comprehensive cap-and-trade energy reform bill, saying Republicans refuse to support the measure.

Alex Brandon/AP



After weeks of intense negotiations, Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada announced Thursday that comprehensive energy reform meant to address climate change could not be passed before the August break.

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The third leg of President Obama's domestic agenda – after health care and financial reform – energy reform is the last to come before the Senate, although in a more limited form than the game-changing overhaul the White House promised. Senator Reid said he'll take a scaled-down version of the legislation to the floor as early as next week.

In a bid to win Republican support, Democrats will drop proposed controls on greenhouse gas emissions in favor of more limited measures that have attracted bipartisan support in the past. These include: lifting the liability cap to hold BP accountable for the Gulf oil spill, decreasing dependence on foreign oil, boosting incentives to create up to 400,000 green jobs, and expanding funding for land and water conservation.

"This is not the only energy legislation we are going to do; this is the energy legislation we can do now,” said Reid. “I had to make a decision. Here’s the decision I made.”

In the end, Senate Democrats simply ran out of time. For months, a bipartisan team of Sens. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts, Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina had been working with industry leaders and other stakeholders to draft a broad bill to limit carbon emissions, boost incentives for green energy and nuclear power, and expand offshore drilling.

But the Gulf oil spill sunk prospects for a key Republican demand to expand offshore drilling. Senator Graham dropped out of the talks – citing the changed political climate – and no Republican emerged to take his place.

“In order to pass comprehensive legislation, you have to have 60 votes,” said Senator Kerry. “To get 60 votes, you’ve got to have Republicans. As of today, we don’t have one Republican."