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Reid Still Hoping for Bipartisan, All-Encompassing Energy Bill

Yesterday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) admitted that he probably wouldn’t be able to muster 60 votes to pass a climate and energy bill along the lines of the one unveiled by House Democrats earlier in the day. As a result, it appears likely that the various elements of the bill — including cap-and-trade, energy efficiency, a national smart grid and a renewable energy standard — will be attempted in separate pieces of legislation.

At a Center for American Progress Action Fund event this morning, I asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) whether he would rather see these elements packaged together or tackled separately. Here’s what he said:

“My original plan was to do first the renewable portfolio standard, efficiency in utilities, building codes for construction of new buildings in that package, and then do the smart grid as a second package, and then third would be global warming. But the energy committees had trouble getting the bill out of the committee — it’s taking too long. My window to be able to do that separately was during this work period. And the House is going to finish their bill by Memorial Day. So I think that it’s to everyone’s benefit that we follow what the House has done. I think that there are a tremendous number of players who are going to be involved in all three aspects that I’ve just outlined, all of whom have different ideas as to why this legislation is important. And it’s true that when you get big pieces of legislation done, legislation’s the art of compromise, consensus-building. And I think we can do that. I have hope and confidence that what has been done both from me reaching out to Republicans as leader of the Senate and what Obama has done, reaching out to Republicans, there might not be short-term gain, but there’s going to be a lot of long-term gain if we continue doing this. And I think something as important as global warming should not be a partisan issue.”

As we’ve seen from the vote on the stimulus and the debate over the budget and cap-and-trade, all the hope and confidence in the world isn’t enough to achieve bipartisanship in this Senate. And so, despite Reid’s best intentions, it appears that he might have to abandon his embrace of the House proposal and revert back to his original position, which probably won’t see cap-and-trade passed any earlier than next year.

Update: Upon further transcription, here’s another comment from Reid at this morning’s event on the prospects for passing climate legislation:

“I had a terrific meeting yesterday with ten Democratic senators who are concerned about their states: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana — states that are heavily dependent on coal. And we’re going to have to work with them. There wasn’t a single senator there of the ten that didn’t want to have a global warming bill. But we’re going to have to make sure that what we do doesn’t devastate an economy. We can do that in many different ways. And I think what the House is going through will be very educational for all of us. Henry Waxman from California, Nancy Pelosi from California — everyone thinks this is going to be some wild bill, based on the fact that California has some very, in my opinion, good environmental laws. But people are afraid that this bill is going to have California written all over it. Listen, these congressional districts are concerned about the same things our senators are concerned about. And I think we’re going to be surprised at how moderate the bill will come from the House — moderate, but good.”

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