Senate Dems Eye July Debate on an Energy Bill

By Alex Pepper

Jun 17, 2010 4:12pm

ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports: While Tony Hayward gets hammered by Congressman, Senators are trying to figure out how to pass a comprehensive energy and climate change bill in the wake of the oil spill. Senate Democrats conducted a special caucus meeting on the issue this afternoon. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters after the meeting that he wouldn’t put a timeline on passing a bill. But Sen. Joe Lieberman said moments later that Reid will try to have a bill on the Senate floor in July. “I’m committed to doing my very best,” Reid said. He would not elaborate on what Democrats will ultimately put in their proposal. It is difficult to imagine any sort of cap and trade proposal or anything with a “price on carbon” passing the Senate – most moderate Republicans have already said they oppose any sort of “energy tax.” There are various proposals, but none yet have the support from every Democrat and one Republican (the magic number 60) as Sen. Robert Menendez told ABC earlier today. Sen. Barbara Boxer had a new illustration tying the oil spill in the Gulf to the need for cap and trade legislation. In the Gulf, she said oil is considered spilled, but “If it gets into the air – out of sight out of mind.” Boxer said any effective bill would have to put a price on carbon. Lieberman said later, off-camera, that a price on carbon might not be essential. But he is pushing for a big, sweeping bill. “We’ve got to stretch and get something transformational done,” Lieberman said. All the Democrats who spoke after the meeting made the argument that creating a new cleaner energy market will lead to jobs. Passing a comprehensive bill, said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, will “save billions of dollars and make us more energy independent.” Various Senators with energy bill proposals spoke at the Democrats’ meeting, including: 1.  Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, who have the most recent proposal and the backing of a number of big-name CEOs 2. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who authored an earlier bill with Kerry, 3. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, whose Energy Committee has a bill that would set new efficiency standards, but not place a price on carbon, and 4. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who has a bipartisan proposal with Sen. Susan Collins. Senate Democrats will reconnoiter in another closed caucus meeting next week with more detailed proposals from the Senators with ideas.

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