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Reid's climate ultimatum

By Juliet Eilperin

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has given Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) a clear ultimatum on climate legislation: unveil a bill within a couple of weeks, or steel yourself for an energy-only bill on the Senate floor.

In a closed-door meeting last week, Reid informed Kerry that he was willing to give the Massachusetts Democrat and his two colleagues, Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), a couple of more weeks to write their climate compromise, so other senators could see it once they return from their spring recess. If not, he would bring up Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman's (D-N.M.) bill, which has already passed the committee with bipartisan support.

The troika is hoping to unveil their bill the week of April 19, so it will concide with Earth Day rather than Tax Week--this might still meet Reid's deadline, though he's sounding increasing impatient.

"We have to be making final decisions soon," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley, who noted that once the current break ends there will be just 15 weeks for senators to work before August recess arrives.

Energy and Natural Resources spokesman Bill Wicker emphasized in an interview that Bingaman "has not been among those senators pressing Reid to do an energy-only bill. Jeff is open to any proposal, big or small, which can gain the level of bipartisan support it will need, that's workable, that's passable and that can lower greenhouse gases."

But an energy-only bill strategy might anger a key part of the Democrats' political base: environmentalists. As the League of Conservation Voter's legislative director Tiernan Sittenfeld explained, "We've made clear that we oppose an energy only bill. To truly transform our economy, increase America's's energy independence and protect the planet, we must put a cap on carbon pollution."

Kerry's press secretary, Whitney Smith, said that the three senators "plan to unveil their work this month and the leader has been wonderfully committed to making this Congress the one that finally passes comprehensive energy and climate legislation."


Juliet Eilperin

 |  April 2, 2010; 11:18 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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