The debate over the Climate Security Act bill has made that clear trillions are at stake in global warming legislation. No surprise, then, that the Senate powerbrokers don’t want Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) Environment and Public Works committee to have the only say on who gets what.
E&E Daily (subs. req’d) has the story of how the climate bill is likely to have a much longer and far more tangled journey next year:
Next year’s Senate climate debate is shaping up to be much different than the one that played out over the last 18 months as powerful committee chairmen express interest in vetting critical pieces of the controversial legislation.
Consider Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who said he will not close the door next year on writing the new climate bill section that deals with the distribution of trillions of dollars in auction and allowance revenue.
“I think this bill strengthens with greater committee participation,” Baucus said last week. “It’s such a massive undertaking that it’s important that various committees are fully and actively involved.”
During the 110th Congress, Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif.) Environment and Public Works Committee held the reigns on the cap-and-trade climate measure, culminating in last week’s failed cloture vote on S. 3036. Boxer marked up the entire measure last December and then spearheaded negotiations and revisions with a small band of her closest allies in a bid to win votes on the floor.
Come 2009, however, Boxer is likely to find several other senators interested in a piece of the action.
Besides Baucus, the Agriculture Committee may want to draw up the provisions that deal with domestic and international offsets. Adaptation and ocean issues have a home in the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. And even the emission limits could be up for grabs if the Energy and Natural Resources Committee is interested.
“I think it’s certainly worth figuring out how we can have senators from various committees feel they’ve had significant input into the bill and have a sense of ownership of whatever we try to enact,” said Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).
Added Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the second highest ranking Democrat on both the Finance and Commerce committees, “That could very well help.”
Assuming Democrats still control the Senate in 2009, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would make the final decision on whether to split up the next climate change bill into multiple jurisdictions.
Sources tracking the process say Reid is likely to keep quiet on this question until early next year now that the Senate has yanked Boxer’s bill off the floor.
Among the factors Reid would consider: whether or not he has expanded the Democrats’ majority in the 2008 elections, as well as the shape of a likely White House cap-and-trade proposal from either Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois or Republican candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Does it come in specific legislative text, or a much broader set of principles?
Reid also could tip his hand with the fiscal 2010 budget resolution, where language could be inserted into the nonbinding document that gives committees an early and critical role in drafting details of the bigger climate bill.
‘We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it’
Touchy jurisdictional disputes have been simmering just beneath the surface for more than a year in the Senate climate debate, which ended last week with Reid pulling the bill off the floor after Republicans demanded a full reading of the 492-page measure (Greenwire, June 6).
Bingaman, for example, has played a prominent in role since 2005 as lead author of a cap-and-trade plan that now can claim support from key industry and labor groups. Last year, the New Mexico Democrat was pressing for greater control over the climate bill amid rumblings from Senate staff that Boxer had lost control of the EPW Committee (E&E Daily, June 25, 2007).
But Bingaman backed away after Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) came to Boxer’s rescue and revealed plans to team up on a more aggressive bill that would move through her EPW Committee (E&ENews PM, June 27, 2007).
Since then, Boxer and Bingaman have largely tiptoed around their differences despite obvious fissures between their staffs. Bingaman raised eyebrows last month when he held a hearing on the results of U.S. EPA and Energy Department studies of the Lieberman-Warner legislation — something Boxer’s panel did not do.
“I find it almost breathtaking that our EPW colleagues who voted out this cap-and-trade bill did not have a serious hearing on the costs that it would incur on the American people and our economy,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said during the hearing.
Asked last week if he would make a move toward marking up a climate bill in 2009, Bingaman said, “I don’t have any strong views on how procedurally it’s handled. I just think you have to find a procedure that persuades a good majority, and hopefully a lot more than that, of senators that they’ve had a part in the crafting of the legislation.”
In a written statement to E&E Daily, Boxer defended her role in writing the Senate climate bill and sidestepped a question about future jurisdictional struggles.
“All I can say is what I am going to do,” Boxer said. “And as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, my committee is going to continue working on this until the problem is solved.”
Finance Chairman Baucus sits on the EPW Committee, where he offered a critical vote that helped Boxer pass the legislation in December.
In recent weeks, Boxer also inserted language into the climate bill that would have given Americans an $800 billion tax cut over the four decade lifespan of the cap-and-trade program. Her bill left open a space for Baucus’ committee to vote on that provision, something Baucus’ committee didn’t have time to do before the floor debate.
“It’s not like anyone expected it to pass this year,” Baucus explained.
Like Bingaman, Baucus wouldn’t say whether he would make a move with Reid to get the Finance Committee into the direct mix in writing future pieces of the bill. “Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Soul searching begins
The process for how the Senate bill came to the floor is likely to be closely scrutinized in the coming months in anticipation of the next battle.
Among the critical questions: Did Democratic leaders put some of their own caucus members into a tough spot debating a bill that would increase gas prices at the beginning of the traditional summer driving season? Did Boxer shut out the views of Democratic and GOP senators critical to building the 60-vote coalition required to get a bill adopted in the Senate?
“We can’t have a repeat of what just happened, where one committee decides what’s going to be in this bill,” said a Senate Democratic aide close to the climate process. “The only way we got away with bringing this to the floor is that everyone knew this wasn’t a real process, that the bill had no chance of passing.”
This aide called for multiple committees to get involved but warned that a more inclusive process isn’t the only remedy. “It won’t be easier, necessarily, but we’ll bring the bill to the floor knowing that more members have participated in the process of developing the bill, and more people will have a stake if it fails,” the aide said.
Among members of the EPW Committee, there is some concern that opening up the climate debate to other committees could derail the process.
“I frankly would prefer consulting with them [other committees] informally than having them taking a piece of the thing,” said Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), a senior Republican on the EPW panel. “If that happens, we may never get anything done.”
Voinovich would be next in line to become the EPW ranking member if McCain wins the presidency and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) moves to replace McCain as the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
Lieberman said he too wants the EPW Committee to keep primary jurisdiction. “We worked pretty well with the other committees this year,” he said. “I think we worked well within the committee.”
But Lieberman also acknowledged that changing up the legislation process should be up for discussion following last week’s floor debate. “I’m willing to consider, myself, anything that makes passage of the bill more likely,” he said.
Andrew Wheeler, Republican staff director for the EPW Committee, said he expected the EPW panel to retain jurisdiction. “But I see that there’s a lot of frustration in the way this process worked this year,” he added.
Another factor that could change the dynamic is the lack of an obvious potential Republican cosponsor on the current EPW Committee roster. Warner is retiring at the end of the year, and Boxer and Lieberman will likely want a GOP ally as the debate begins.
Perched on other committees, however, are some contenders, including Florida’s Mel Martinez (Energy and Natural Resources), Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski (likely ranking member of Energy and Natural Resources) and Ted Stevens (ranking member of Commerce if he wins his re-election contest this November).
Boxer also can plan on her own full agenda in 2009 as the next reauthorization of the highway bill comes up. “She potentially has two huge, huge legislative challenges next Congress,” noted Eric Ueland, who served as chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
Paul Light, an expert on Congress and a professor at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, likened the ongoing global warming debate to other big-ticket items that involve multiple committees of jurisdiction, including Social Security and homeland security. “The more serious it gets as a proposal, the more likely different committees will want to play,” he said.