E&E News PM (subs. req’d) has some updates on White House efforts to get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster for a climate bill:
The White House is reaching out to moderate Senate Democrats in an effort to build support for legislation to sharply curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, a White House energy and climate aide said today.
“We have had a number of conversations with the staffs of some of the moderates,” said Joseph Aldy.
“We have reached out to them to understand what are the key issues they would like to see addressed in an energy and climate package, and making sure that as we move forward we are not missing any of the important voices in the debate,” he added.
At the same time, the administration continued to send signals that it understood the inevitable — no climate bill that starts with 100% auction in the first year could get the necessary votes in both houses:
The Obama administration would consider delaying its plan to auction all emission credits under a federal climate regulation scheme, a senior administration official said today.
President Obama, backed by many environmental groups, has proposed auctioning 100 percent of carbon emission allowances under a cap-and-trade plan. But industry groups are pressing to receive some free allowances that they say will help utilities and other emission sources meet compliance costs and protect consumers from price spikes.
“The idea, obviously, is to end up with a bill that reflects both the thinking of Congress and the administration, a bill that the president can sign,” White House science adviser John Holdren told the Washington Post. When it comes to the 100 percent auction, he added, “whether you get to start with that or get there over a period of time is something that’s being discussed.”
Obama can hardly be can criticized for flexibility when the uber-progressives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) glossed over the matter entirely (see “First impression of Waxman-Markey: A solid bill that boosts the economy, creates green jobs, and puts the country on a path to preserve a livable climate. Grade: B+“):
The draft climate bill released last week by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sidesteps some critical details on allowances and auctions, leaving the issue open for negotiation in coming weeks. Markey said last month that he does not expect Congress to approve a complete auction of the credits.
Obama signaled during a prime-time news conference last month that he might be willing to budge on the 100 percent auction when it comes time for legislative debate. The climate bill, he said, “has to take into account regional differences, it has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices.”
Many observers saw those comments as a recognition that some percentage of allowances would be given away free.
“I think it’s been apparent for a long time that the path forward to get to ‘yes’ in both houses meant you had to deal with these kinds of concerns,” said David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center.
The devil is in the details, of course. Most of the tons must be auctioned to start, and we need to get to 100% auction quickly, within 10 years. For me, the rip-offset issue is much more important than the 100% auction issue.
House Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearings on the bill are slated to begin the week of April 20, and Waxman wants to complete a full committee markup by Memorial Day.
If Waxman can get the bill thru the relatively conservative House Energy and Commerce committee, most observers believe the bill can pass the entire House. The Senate is a different customer entirely.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also said he wants to package energy and climate measures into a single bill. But forging ahead with a joint bill in the Senate, where 60 votes are required for almost all major bills, will likely be difficult, and some members have called for moving separate energy and climate packages.
Aldy today said he backs addressing the issues in an “integrated” manner but stopped short of saying whether it must be one unified bill.
“The president views energy, environment and climate change as all part of the challenge we are trying to face, and believe that it makes sense to try and address them in an integrated manner,” Aldy said. “We appreciate what the chairman has done in trying to craft as comprehensive a program as he can.
“Our view right now is we think we ought to try and address them all in tandem, because there are strong relationships between these different kinds of policies.”
Asked whether “in tandem” should mean one bill, Aldy replied, “However we can best move this through Congress we would like to move this through Congress. Right now, we are working on the Waxman bill, which looks at these issues all in one package.”
My prediction is that the Senate will ultimately split the climate bill out, and that this separate climate bill won’t make it to the Senate floor before 2010 — where it will, in fact, pass, assuming team Obama gets its act together (see “Obama can get a better climate bill in 2010“).