Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) just unveiled their much-anticipated climate and energy bill and expressed optimism that they had the support to pass the country’s first comprehensive climate legislation.
“We are closer than we’ve ever been to a breakthrough,” Kerry said. “We want to make this the Senate where we finish the job.”
“We would not be here today if we did not feel that … we can and will adopt the American Power Act in this session of Congress,” Lieberman added.
But they made their announcement without their colleague Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who worked with them to draft this bill but then backed out of the process to protest the Senate leadership’s prioritization of immigration reform. Graham was confident that he could obtain key Republican support for the bill, and his absence raises questions about the chances of passage for the bill, which already faces a steep uphill climb in a deeply divided Senate.
Kerry acknowledged the difficult road ahead. “This should be an easy vote,” he said. “And yet history teaches us again and again that fundamental change doesn’t come without a fight.”
Still, he was confident that senators would come to appreciate the political value of the legislation. “There will be those who say this is the wrong political season,” he said. “But we are here today because we believe that good policy is also good politics.”
One advantage the senators have over past advocates of clean energy legislation is the support of key industry groups. Kerry pointed out that representatives of companies that opposed climate change mitigation efforts in the past were now standing behind him to speak in support of the bill.
But various concessions to industry have earned the bill opposition from some environmental groups, who argue that handouts to coal, oil and nuclear undermine the climate goals the bill purports to achieve.
Lieberman dismissed such criticism. “I’m very proud of this bill,” he said. “It’s strong, it’s balanced, and it will work.”
For a summary of the draft legislation, see here.