Kerry To Advance Climate Bill Minus Graham

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will press ahead with legislation to deal with climate change, even after their erstwhile GOP partner says it will be “impossible” for the bill to pass the Senate.

Kerry and Lieberman released a joint statement Friday announcing their plan to roll out comprehensive energy and climate change legislation this coming Wednesday. If that roll-out goes off as planned, it will mark a major milestone for the bill that has languished in the Senate for most of the last year.

“We appreciate Senator Graham’s statement of his continued commitment to passing comprehensive energy independence legislation,” the Kerry/Lieberman statement says. “Over the past several months we have worked with Senator Graham and he has made a significant contribution to construct balanced legislation that will make our country energy independent, create jobs and curb pollution. Senator Graham has been our partner in building a broad-based coalition of support for legislation that can pass the Senate this year.”

The climate bill has been stalled in the Senate ever since it came over from the House last year, which approved the cap-and-trade bill by a narrow margin. Kerry has emerged as the climate bill’s Senate champion in recent months, and before he withdrew, Graham had been his conduit to achieving broader Republican support. GOP backing will be required to overcome an expected filibuster. Some Democrats, notably coal-state Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also do not support the current climate bill, which adds to the need for votes from across the aisle.

The climate bill is a top priority for President Obama.

Kerry and Lieberman appear to believe they can pick up Republican votes even without the conservative Graham as an active partner. “We’ve continued to work with the Senate leadership and the White House, and we believe we’ve made new progress on the path to 60 votes,” their joint statement says.

In remarks earlier this year, Kerry noted that other Republicans, such as Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, have in the past supported legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, clean energy businesses in Kerry’s home state have been putting pressure on Kerry’s Massachusetts colleague, Republican Sen. Scott Brown, to support the climate bill.

Indeed, the success of Kerry and Lieberman to advance their legislation without Graham may hinge on the ability of advocates, including those in business, to lobby for it. Although the stridently anti-regulation U.S. Chamber of Commerce has actively opposed climate legislation, other major business interests support a national cap-and-trade system to regulate emissions.

Best Buy, Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss and others are among the corporations that say they want a climate bill passed this year.

“We are more encouraged today that we can secure the necessary votes to pass this legislation this year in part because the last weeks have given everyone with a stake in this issue a heightened understanding that as a nation, we can no longer wait to solve this problem which threatens our economy, our security and our environment,” the Kerry/Lieberman statement says. “Our optimism is bolstered because there is a growing and unprecedented bi-partisan coalition from the business, national security, faith and environmental communities that supports our legislation and is energized to work hard and get it passed. We look forward to rolling-out the legislation next Wednesday and passing the legislation with the support of Senator Graham and other Republicans, Democrats and Independents this year.”

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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