Congress not moved by Obama plea for global warming bill 

President Obama's call to action did little to increase the urgency in Congress to pass an aggressive climate and energy bill, despite hopes among environmentalists that the oil spill disaster in the Gulf could spur support for legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions.

Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Wednesday after hearing the president's plea for action on global-warming legislation as a way to reduce future oil consumption and, thereby, the chances of future oil spills. But members of Congress were focused on addressing the immediate impact of the spill on Gulf Coast states, where oil is washing ashore and killing wildlife and livelihoods.

Climate and energy legislation was clearly an afterthought, particularly among Gulf Coast senators like George LeMieux, R-Fla., who went to the Senate floor to lambaste the government response to the spill in his state.

LeMieux said the state was in desperate need of skimmers to clean up oil in coastal waters. So far, there are just 32 skimmers in use, LeMieux said, and he has complained to Obama that hundreds more should be in place.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., praised Obama for "taking the bull by the horns" with the announcement of an accelerated claims process and said the Senate should consider an energy and climate bill, but maintained that the immediate focus should be to "get justice" for the people in the Gulf.

Obama made the case that the disaster demonstrated the need to pass a climate and energy bill, but did not push for capping carbon emissions. The closest he came was to make reference to a House bill that would do so.

Prospects for a carbon bill in the Senate are practically nonexistent. Even in the wake of the Gulf disaster, the Senate lacks 60 votes to pass such a bill, with key lawmakers including Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., saying the spill and an energy bill are unrelated.

Instead, senators are talking about an energy bill that includes components from various proposals aimed at creating alternative sources of energy, but it's not likely to limit carbon emissions.

"You can lower emissions without a cap and you can enhance lower carbon technology without a cap," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "Maybe that's a good start."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will meet privately with the Democratic caucus on Thursday to hash out ideas on a climate and energy bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress will determine in coming weeks "how far we can go at this time" and acknowledged the legislation would be "a mix" of different ideas. She didn't mention cap and trade, but said a bill sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., that puts a price on carbon is "something we could come to terms with."

The Kerry-Lieberman bill, however, lacks enough support in the Senate.

A Democratic leadership aide acknowledged later that Pelosi realizes "the bottom line is what can get 60 votes in the Senate."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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