House and Senate Democrats united Tuesday in their commitment to push sweeping global warming legislation despite resistance from President Bush.
Democrats said they see enough daylight to get a bill done but are prepared to wait until a new president takes office if Republicans aren’t willing to sign on.
“It’s up to the Republicans,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who said virtually every Democrat was prepared to back the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade legislation he plans to bring to the floor in June. “It’s the most important issue we can deal with. ... If we can get cloture on it, we’re going to be very patient,” he said.
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) criticized President Bush’s inaction on the issue and said she was opposed to watering down the legislation to apply solely to power plants — as suggested by Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).
“We want to do the entire economy because otherwise we’re not solving the problem,” she said. “I’m going to take this as far as we can and then see where we are.”
Boxer made it clear that she’s willing to wait. “At that point, we’ll see what we can do under a new president,” she said. “We need to do what’s necessary to solve the problem, not some feel-good measure.”
President Bush opened the door for limited legislation on global warming but signaled his opposition to the Lieberman-Warner bill and other bills.
“It was not as strong a signal as I hoped he would make,” said Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality.
But Boucher said Bush still appeared to leave enough daylight for a cap-and-trade bill if it had industry and bipartisan backing.
Boucher said he has invited Republicans for 15 months to help write a bill, but they haven’t stepped up.
“That can still be done, but it’s a narrow window,” he said. “We have to get moving now if we are going to have a bill on the floor this summer.”
Boucher said there is still pressure on both parties to get something done this year, given the uncertainty of what might happen next year.
“If we build a big base, support from some environmental groups and key industries, it will come to the floor. ... The sooner it passes, the sooner you can start reducing emissions, the sooner we create a green industry that exports all over the world,” he said.
Boucher pointed to what he said was the irony of the situation — Republicans usually complain that they are being shut out of legislation, and now they are being asked to help write it “and we’re being told no.”
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), a key member of Energy and Commerce, said he could support a cap-and-trade system depending on how it is structured. He said it must take care of the coal and nuclear power industries while addressing the massive growth of emissions from China and India.
“We could do all this pain with no gain,” Shimkus said.
Shimkus said he and Boucher have talked, but there isn’t yet a framework for a compromise bill.