Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's Summertime in an Election Year, Do You Know Where Your Senators Are?

The answer, apparently, is doing their jobs.* 

After close to two months of doubt at whether the White House and Congressional Dems were up to tackling yet another major progressive policy priority, some serious rumblings are being heard inside the beltway as President Obama and Majority Leader Reid begin sounding the clarion call for Senate passage of a comprehensive energy and climate bill.

Just days ago, President Obama told reporters at a news conference on the Gulf oil leak, "
If nothing else this disaster should serve as a wake-up call that it's time to move forward with this legislation." 

Yesterday, during a speech in Pittsburgh, the president laid out the case more fully. "T
he time has come to aggressively accelerate that transition," he said.  "The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future."

Specifically calling for a new carbon pricing system, Obama praised the House for the action they took last year and called on the Senate to do the same, declaring that, "the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months."

Read the President's full remarks here.

Many were quick to criticize the White House for not seizing the moment sooner, but I've long argued that the Obama administration's legislative strategy often involves small, behind-the-scenes actions methodically done in preparation of the right time for major action. I think that time is upon us.

We've known for weeks that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has been meeting with remaining climate bill authors John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and that he had promised to meet with relevant committee chairs after returning from break, but Reid and Obama seem to be moving in lock-step now on the impetus of the crisis in the Gulf.

Earlier today, POLITICO reported on a letter Reid sent to eight committee chairs asking them to report any language they wanted considered as part of the energy and climate bill out before July 4th, setting the Senate up for floor debate in July. Reid also asked them to attach language dealing swiftly with "the existing situation [in the Gulf] and to reduce the risks of such a catastrophe happening again.” The bill is likely to include a lifting of the liability cap for oil companies, stricter oversight, and major reforms of the Mineral Management Service.

Kerry and Lieberman were quick to praise the move, but it should be mentioned that it is unclear whether their American Power Act would provide the framework for the bill or if Reid is looking to move in another direction.

That said, it seems clearer that the Senate will try to address our nation's energy crisis and global climate change this year. Now if we could just get that leak under control.


*I say this with tongue in cheek as this Congress has already set itself apart as one of the most productive in U.S. history.

For background on this issue, see our earlier post here.