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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.

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The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has had a clean energy package on track for more than a year, with bipartisan support. The Environment and Public Works panel has also produced draft climate change legislation, but with no GOP support.

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“The Senate is very likely to take up those pieces, and it’s quite possible that that will be the vehicle for some narrow carbon reduction legislation,” says Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s deputy director of national campaigns. “The decision to go with a narrower package clearly reflects the limited timetable left before the Senate adjourns for August recess.”

Still, the move disappointed environmental groups, who had pushed the Senate to match the sweeping climate change legislation that narrowly passed the House in June 2009.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today delivered very bad news to the American people. Continuing obstructionism by the Senate Republican leadership, joined by a handful of Democratic senators, is still blocking the way forward on essential clean energy and climate legislation,” said David Hawkins, director of climate programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Over the recess we must deliver a message to senators: ‘Do your job! …. Don’t come home again without having tackled these real and present dangers.' "

On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking heat from members in conservative districts. They are worried about losing votes in November over far-reaching climate change legislation, even though the Senate isn't taking up the House's more comprehensive version of the bill. Members will still probably face hostile campaign ads based on their votes.

“The Speaker hopes that the Senate soon moves forward with the strongest possible package, so that the House and Senate can go to conference,” says Ms. Pelosi's spokesman Drew Hammill, after today’s announcement.