Tripartisan Climate Bill Begins to Take Form

December 10, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) just held a press conference to outline the broad strokes of the climate bill they will soon introduce. Details were scarce, but the renewed statement of commitment by the three senators represents serious progress over the partisan gridlock that has held up health reform and threatened to derail climate legislation.

Kerry cited the Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding, issued Monday, as an impetus to spur Congress to action on climate change. “This week, in the EPA’s endangerment finding, the Obama administration sent a clear message about the serious threat climate change poses to public health,” he said. “They also sent a crystal-clear message to Congress: Get moving.”

“I believe our collaboration has presented the best opportunity for our nation to become energy independent since I’ve been in Congress,” added Graham, who has taken heat from conservatives for his cooperation with Democrats on the climate issue. “I believe the green economy is coming. It’s not a question of if it’s going to happen; it’s when it’s going to happen.”

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to move its climate bill, co-sponsored by Kerry and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), to the full Senate on Nov. 5 by a vote of 11-1, with all Republicans boycotting the vote. But by that point, it had already become clear that players outside EPW’s rather liberal Democratic caucus would play a key role in crafting the bill that ultimately received a full Senate vote. On Oct. 10, Kerry and Graham had written an op-ed in The New York Times in which they pledged to work on bipartisan legislation.

Add Lieberman to the mix — a co-sponsor of a previous (failed) bipartisan climate bill and a progressive on environmental issues, despite his growing conservative streak on foreign policy and health care — and you’ve got the tripartisan bill that was unveiled today.

The White House quickly responded to the press conference with praise. “Today, Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham took another significant step in the effort to pass comprehensive energy reform with the release of their legislative framework,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement. “The President believes this is a positive development towards reaching a strong, unified and bipartisan agreement in the U.S. Senate.”

But a final bill may still be a ways off. “We’d like to underscore the point that the framework we’re releasing today is a starting point for the negotiations going forward,” said Kerry, who hopes to pass climate legislation early next year.

Update: EnviroKnow has the text of the framework here.