Senate Dems retreat on global warming 

Lacking the requisite 60 votes, Senate Democrats shelved plans to take up an aggressive energy and global warming bill before the August recess and will instead settle on a much smaller bill that deals with the Gulf oil spill and some smaller "green" initiatives.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., broke the news to the Democratic caucus on Thursday that the bill he plans to write will not include a cap on carbon emissions, nor will it set a renewable energy standard.

Reid emerged from the meeting flanked by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and President Obama's climate change czar, Carol Browner, to tell reporters that the blame lay squarely on the shoulders of Republicans, who refuse to supply a crucial 60th vote. Democrats control just 59 votes.

"Many of us want to do a broad, comprehensive bill that creates jobs and breaks our addiction to foreign oil," Reid said. "Unfortunately at the time we don't have a single Republican to work with in achieving this goal."

The GOP is wholly opposed to a bill that would cap carbon on the utility sector, a move they fear might raise energy prices and hurt business.

But Democrats had problems getting their own caucus to buy into an ambitious climate change bill, with many moderate and coal state Democrats refusing to back a carbon cap, particularly in the months leading up to an election that threatens to unseat several of them.

"Our leader and the White House made the determination that we don't have the votes and don't have the time right now to do something more comprehensive and this is probably the best we can do now," said Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa.

The announcement by Reid, however, all but assures "cap and trade" is dead for the year, if not the indefinite future.

While some Democrats talked of taking up a more aggressive bill after the August recess, there is virtually no chance of finding 60 votes for such legislation with the November election lurking around the corner, and Reid made no such promises.

Instead, Reid and Kerry on Thursday appeared to deliver a eulogy for climate change legislation, at least for this year.

"The work will continue every single day," said Kerry, who had written a bill capping carbon and spoke by phone about the decision with Obama earlier in the day.

Reid said the bill he plans to introduce would deal the current oil spill disaster, likely by raising the liability cap on damages oil companies would have to pay and by increasing federal oversight of the oil drilling industry and disaster cleanup efforts.

The bill would also include a measure to reduce energy consumption by promoting the "cash for caulkers" program. And it would provide incentives for the production of more vehicles powered by natural gas and would require oil and gas companies drilling offshore to put more money into the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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