What’s become of the Senate energy bill is a profound disappointment to anyone who takes policy seriously. It’s a shell of its former self, and it’s painful to see this rare opportunity to make meaningful progress slip away. It’s not that the legislation’s remaining provisions are worthless — there’s some decent stuff in there, including Home Star — but the bill needed to include at least some kind of cap-and-trade and renewable energy standards. It won’t.
There’s talk of reviving the bill in the next session of Congress, that remains to be seen, but Joe Klein predicts: “There Will Be An Energy Bill…soon.” We hope Klein is right. The feeling among many is that President Obama dropped the ball and failed to give the legislation the push it needed.
Senator John Kerry who spearheaded the legislation, made the following statement yesterday after the decision was made to shelve the bill:
“I’d like to thank Senator Reid – Leader Reid – for his significant leadership during the last several years to help build a strong consensus and growing coalition with respect to climate and energy comprehensive legislation.
“Over the past year and a half working with Leader Reid, we’ve had hundreds of meetings and negotiations and we have built an unprecedented coalition of support which has moved us further along in this process than at any time in this effort. Today, we have support from industries and stakeholders that have opposed previous bills, and that is a very, very important achievement.
“But we’ve always known from day one, that in order to pass comprehensive energy/climate legislation, you’ve got to reach 60 votes, and to reach those 60 votes, you’ve got have some Republicans. And as we stand here today, we do not have one Republican. I think that it’s possible to get there.
“Even this morning, Senator Lieberman and I had a meeting with one Republican who has indicated a willingness to begin working towards something. Harry Reid, today, is committed to giving us that opportunity, that open door over the next weeks, days, months, whatever it takes to find those 60 votes.
“The work will continue every single day. In the meantime, as Senator Reid has just said, we have an obligation to the American people, we have an obligation to our country. And that is to respond to the oil spill in the Gulf. And that’s why Senator Reid is going to bring this admittedly narrow, limited bill to the floor because he’s determined to do what we can in the timeframe that we have before the August break that will address some of our energy independence and some of the oil spill issues.
“Now let me be crystal clear. As Senator Reid said, this legislation that he has proposed does not replace climate legislation. It does not replace comprehensive energy legislation. Now President Obama called me before this meeting and said point blank that he is committed to working in these next days at a more intensive pace together with Carol Browner and other members of the administration to help bring together the ability to find sixty votes for that comprehensive legislation. And the leader is committed to getting that comprehensive legislation to the floor as soon as possible, whenever that might turn out to be.
“Senator Lieberman and I will continue to work with our colleagues and the stakeholders in order to carve a path to sixty votes for comprehensive legislation that appropriately targets, in an appropriate way, carbon, so that we can send signals to the marketplace and change the direction and create jobs for America and improve our security. The work we’ve done over the last year and a half will remain a foundation for all of this effort.
“I just want to say to all of you on a personal level, that you know I watched Ted Kennedy over 26 years fight to get tough things passed. And in 1970 he began that effort to pass health care reform. We just got it this year. This is not going to take that long. This is not going to take close to that long. I am absolutely confident that as the American people make their voices heard and as our colleagues go home and listen to them we’re going to grow in our ability to pass this.
“I just want to thank those who have brought this issue a long, long way. We have had a remarkable caucus of some twenty Senators plus who have met week after week. And in the 26 years I’ve been here, I have never seen as many Senators from as many different places come together consistently to work to move legislation forward. That effort is going to continue, and I’m grateful to Senator Reid and I’m thankful to the president for their commitment to put this country in the right path.”
Supporters of the energy bill should let Congress and President Obama know how disappointed they are. We must continue to pressure for this urgent legislation.