DC Hill update 9/8: The Senate Returns to DC
DC Hill update 9/8: The Senate Returns to DC
1. Senate Climate Bill Timeline
Last week Senator Kerry (D-MA), and Senator Boxer (D-CA) announced that they will delay the release of their climate bill draft until "later in September." This draft bill was intended to kick off three weeks of committee action from as many as five committees, in time for a committee markup deadline of Monday, 9/28 -- that deadline, which was originally set by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), has now been scratched.
- From Sens. Kerry and Boxer: "Because of Senator Kennedy’s recent passing, Senator Kerry’s August hip surgery, and the intensive work on health care legislation particularly on the Finance Committee where Sen. Kerry serves, Majority Leader Reid has agreed to provide some additional time to work on the final details of our bill, and to reach out to colleagues and important stakeholders. We have told the Majority Leader that our goal is to introduce our bill later in September."
- From Maj. Leader Reid (D-NV): "Senator Reid fully expects the Senate to have ample time to consider this comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation before the end of the year."
2. What Does The New Timeline Mean for The Senate Climate Bill?
In general, 1Sky would like to see a strong bill with broad support written in the Senate as soon as possible. However, an expedited draft without the necessary buy-in from other members is not worth the trade-off. Taking a few additional weeks to address specific concerns could help establish a better political foundation for a strong climate bill. That being said, setting the climate bill on a path of indefinite delay would be disastrous, so we'd like to see the necessary consultations wrapped up as soon as possible. Focused grassroots pressure will be a key component to building enough momentum to push a strong climate bill forward this fall.
Majority Leader Reid's press release indicates that he is still shooting to pass a climate bill by the end of the year (ie as late as Christmas 2009), so we are anticipating that there will be some type of regrouping effort amongst committee chairs to make sure various elements of the bill are marked up swiftly. Reid's original September calendar assumed about three weeks of committee action (hearings, markup, etc.), so if the pace is kept the same as the original plan, then a Kerry-Boxer draft delayed until "late September" means committee processes will continue until mid to late October, at the earliest. Such a crunch in the timeline makes it unlikely that a bill will be passed out of the Senate by the UN Climate Negotiations, to be held in Copenhagen early this December.
The fact that Kerry's "service on the finance committee" is cited in their press statement suggests continued efforts to work out the relationship between the two markups planned for the Finance and EPW Committees - which have overlapping jurisdictions for distributing the value of emissions allowances generated by the proposed cap on carbon.
In general, delay of any kind is not good news for clean energy legislation. With key international climate negotiations approaching for December, and Midterm elections looming in 2010, we're in a “now-or-not-for-a-long time” situation and we can't afford to sacrifice any momentum.
On the other hand, taking the time to make sure a strong coalition of Senators are brought into the climate bill process early on may very well serve us better. Again, it's unfortunate that this hasn't been fast-tracked, but as long as the delay is brief, it could serve us well to have champions line up their alliances and message early on, rather than in the midst of the legislative sausage-making. If we only get one shot at moving this legislation, it's better to wait an extra few weeks.
Despite the delay, we are still assuming that the Kerry-Boxer draft will closely resemble the House bill, but with some additional "tweaks," including strengthening measures. For example, some members of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee have voiced interest in setting stronger science-based cap targets, and fixing loopholes for old dirty coal plants opened by Clean Air Act roll backs in the House bill - two priorities that are in line with policy recommendations from 1Sky.
3. How Healthcare may affect Climate in the Senate
We are also assuming that the Senate will not take up climate in a major way until after the health care debate is resolved. There are two primary bottlenecks created by health care legislation that affect the clean energy jobs bill:
1. The Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) has key jurisdiction over allocations in the climate bill, a jurisdiction they share with the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). Until healthcare clears the Finance committee, it will be difficult to devote focused attention necessary to work on climate with EPW.
2 - The Full Senate, which will likely wait to weigh in on the committee reported pieces of the bill until after healthcare legislation has cleared the Senate.With healthcare taking up most of the time for key decision makers (Senators and top staff), key provisions in the Senate bill will not be thoroughly negotiated until after healthcare has been addressed. This process will have two key components: first, Majority Leader Reid will need to combine the committee reported bills into one bill for consideration by the full Senate; and second, that bill will likely be amended on the floor.
- President Obama plans to addresses a joint session of Congress on health care reform on this Wednesday, 9/9
- In addition to healthcare, the administration has hinted that they are interested in tackling financial reform this fall as well:
- Asked last week about prospects for the Senate climate bill, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs changed the subject and instead predicted a "major push" from Obama and Congress to pass a bill that heads off any future financial crisis (E&E News).
4. Filling Open Senate Seats
Florida, Sen. LeMieux (R): Late last week, Florida Governor Charlie Crist appointed his former chief of staff George LeMieux to temporarily fill Senator Mel Martinez's (R-FL) vacant seat. Some environmental groups are skeptical that the move is indicative of a potential GOP vote for a climate bill, while others are optimistic about the selection given Crist's record on climate.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) has scheduled a special election on January 19th to establish Senator Ted Kennedy's (D-MA) replacement. Just before his death, Senator Kennedy requested that state laws be changed to allow immediate appointment of a replacement. This week, Massachusetts lawmakers will debate the Senator's request. Changing the law would increase the chances of an added Democratic vote for both health care reform and climate and energy reform. Potential replacement for the seat include: Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Mr. Kennedy’s widow; Joseph P. Kennedy II, his nephew; Representatives Michael E. Capuano, Stephen F. Lynch and Edward J. Markey; the state attorney general, Martha Coakley; and former Representative Martin T. Meehan (from NYTimes)
5. Recess movement amongst key climate Senators:
- Darren Samuelsohn (of E&E news) points out movement in some Senate climate messages over recess.
- Tim Johnson (D-SD) is now committed to passing clean energy and climate legislation this year, while the Junior Senator from the same state, John Thune (R-SD), has said that he will "work with every fiber of my being to defeat the [climate] bill."
- John McCain (R-AZ), once dismissive of Obama's climate plan, has begun to change his tone and sounds more willing to discuss a climate bill.
- Lindsey Graham (R-SC) mentions how appreciative he is of Kerry's work with Republicans: "He came over to me, and he said he'd like to see if we could find some middle ground on global warming."
6. Countdown to Copenhagen
With delays this week in the release of a draft Senate climate bill, some are growing increasingly concerned for the prospects of the international negotiations without domestic action from the US. Simultaneously, much work remains to be done in international spheres before an international treaty even becomes a possibility. Still, some feel that an ongoing climate debate will give the US greater leverage to demand more of other parties within the international negotiations.
While on a trip to China, Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) announced that The United States and China are likely to sign a new bilateral climate agreement during President Barack Obama’s visit to Beijing in November. In addition to getting a global deal in Copenhagen it has long been acknowledged that bilateral negotiations between China and the US complement the multilateral climate negotiations that will take place in Copenhagen. This headway also bodes well for climate legislation in the US Senate.
Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-Moon called for more urgent action on climate change from all parties this week, in the lead up to the UN General Assembly Session on climate change on September 21st, in New York.
1Sky's thoughts leading up to Copenhagen: The best case scenario is that we have a bill passed through the Senate before Copenhagen. However, if the packed legislative agenda this fall doesn't allow for that - and it may not - the best thing we can show the international community is forward momentum on the Senate climate bill. We already have a bill through the House, and Senate committees are working diligently to craft language capable of winning broad political support, but we need to make sure that this process is pushed forward by strong grassroots momentum - enough to make passing a strong climate bill and supporting a global treaty inevitable.
Upcoming International events:
- 9/22-23 United Nations General Assembly session on climate change, New York City
- 9/24-25 G-20 Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA
- 12/7-12/18 Copenhagen Climate Conference: UNFCCC 15th Conference of the Parties (COP-15)
7. Major Climate Press, Polling, and Alliances
Efforts from the environmental community to rally support for a climate bill came under harsh scrutiny in the press last week -- 1Sky Campaign Director Gillian Caldwell responded in the Huffington Post.
- As the recess draws to a close, there is evidence that both sides of the climate debate will draw on experiences from the health care debate.
- Looking forward, it appears as though the agriculture industry may not have as much consensus around a climate bill as they did with ACES in the House. Analysis from the USDA in support of a bill has done a lot to convince some members of the farm lobby that legislation is ideal for America's farmers, while others continue to oppose the measure.
- Public support for clean energy legislation remains strong. A new poll commissioned by CAP Action Fund shows that 60% of voters in swing states are more likely to re-elect senators that vote for a climate bill, reinforcing a recent Washington Post / ABC News Poll that found that the majority of Americans support cap-and-trade, and President Obama's overall clean energy strategy.
- The fight for a climate bill may have also created a lasting alliance between labor unions and environmental groups.
8. Clean Energy: Good News and Bad News
The Treasury and Energy Departments announced more than $500 million in recovery package grants for renewable energy projects. Meanwhile, China is continuing to lead on both the manufacturing and implementation of green technologies, leading some to call them the "new OPEC" of clean energy.
9. Corporate giants pick sides on climate
- The US Chamber of Commerce has called their original references to the Scopes Monkey Trials in their effort to put the science of climate change on trial "inappropriate".
- Most likely due to recent scandal involving Bonner and associate, Duke Energy has canceled it's membership within ACCCE (American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity). Mining giant Alcoa and others have left the coalition as well. /
- Verizon recently sponsored a pro-mountaintop removal coal rally in West Virginia: http://bit.ly/12lKFm, bringing a great deal of criticism from climate groups like Energy Action and The Center for Biological Diversity and drawing fire from environmental groups.
10. Van Jones Resigns
After a week of badgering from Glenn Beck and other conservative media, President Obama's Special Advisor for Green Jobs and 1Sky co-founder/Board Member Van Jones announced his resignation from the administration this Saturday. Talk show host Glenn Beck claimed Jones holds "radical, revolutionary and in some cases Marxist views", and highlighted his use of less-than politically correct language and his relationship with a petition on 911Truth.org. Jones apologized for his remarks and distanced himself from the petition and his past affiliations, but the White House passed on opportunities to defend Jones.
At the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington writes "Thank You, Glenn Beck!" for enabling such a charismatic leader and coalition-builder to the front lines of the climate debate. The ThinkProgress Wonk Room has a great post and video highlighting Jones' pushes for cooperation and bipartisanship. Color of Change, a group co-founded by Jones (with which he is no longer affiliated), continues to call on advertisers to boycott the Glenn Beck show for his racially-tinged commentary. Finally, 1Sky Campaign Director Gillian Caldwell addresses Jones’ resignation and next steps in her post on the Huffington Post.
Prepared by Jason Kowalski and Rhiya Trivedi. Please contact congress(at)1sky.org to receive our policy updates to via email each week.