John Kerry: Obama’s Backing In Pittsburgh Is ‘Just What We Needed’ To Pass A Climate Bill

President Obama’s vocal support to enact new comprehensive energy and climate legislation will help pass the bill currently before the Senate, according to a chief architect of that legislation.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on Wednesday emailed his network of supporters to alert them to remarks that the president delivered at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa.

During a wide-ranging speech on the economy and his reform agenda broadly, Obama specifically touched on the need to enact legislation to move the United States further toward clean energy and regulation of the carbon emissions blamed for global climate change.

In his email, Kerry calls attention to Obama’s remarks, quoting the president saying, “The House of Representatives has already passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and there is currently a plan in the Senate — a plan that was developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans — that would achieve the same goals. Pittsburgh, I want you to know, the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months. I will make the case for a clean energy future wherever I can, and I will work with anyone to get this done, and we will get it done. The next generation will not be held hostage to energy sources from the last century. We are not going to move backwards, we are going to move forward.”

Such a high-profile embrace by the president is “just what we needed with Congress coming back into session next week,” says Kerry, who introduced the American Power Act last month with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Among other goals, Kerry says his legislation would cut greenhouse gases by 17 percent in 2020 and by more than 80 percent in 2050.

“Just as we saw with health care, when the President throws down the gauntlet, and puts his prestige on the line and puts the full weight of the White House behind it, we can do big things — the whole debate changes,” Kerry adds. “This is the fourth time in just 12 days that the President has made it crystal clear that he’s not waiting — he’s working with us to get our bill passed this year. As he’s been saying, the catastrophe in the Gulf shows without a doubt that we need to end our oil addiction, and the Senate has to be on record this year doing something to finally tackle the challenge — no watered down, feel good measures that only postpone the day of reckoning; we’re making it happen now.”

Kerry, who has been trying to advance a climate change bill for months, had been negotiating for the support of conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina among Senate Republicans. Graham dropped out of those talks, however, and Kerry and Lieberman decided to unveil their American Power Act without him.

The bill will need to pick up at least some GOP support, however, so as to overcome a likely filibuster of the bill among most Republicans. With 41 votes, Senate Republicans could block the Kerry-Lieberman bill if they were to unite in opposition.

Unlike some other major Democratic reform bills, an energy and climate bill enjoys broad support among much of the business community, with such large companies as Duke Energy, Starbucks and Best Buy among corporations actively seeking to pass the legislation.

“This is going to be a big fight and we’ll need all hands on deck in the next couple of months to make this happen — but now no one can dispute this: President Obama has doubled down on victory,” Kerry says.

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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