Those of us that are waiting (not so) patiently for legislative action of one of three “pillars” of the Obama administration’s reform goals (health insurance reform, green energy/climate protection, and education reform) got a bit of seemingly bad news this past week. As Politico, Senators John Kerry and Harry Reid have indicated that work on the climate change bills (yes, BILLS, more on that below) will be put off in favor of passing a jobs bill and legislation to reform the financial industry.
“I think it would be good if we did [financial reform] first because it helps to establish the rules of the marketplace which helps to establish the rest if it,” he said, after a meeting with several other committee chairs with jurisdiction over the legislation.
Kerry predicted the bill would get to the Senate floor by early spring, but health care and financial reform could easily dominate the rest of this year and perhaps even early next year.
Majority Leader Harry Reid has also hinted that Democrats plan to take up a job-creation bill, in the wake of the announcement of a 10.2 percent unemployment rate.
As A Siegel pointed out last week, if you want a good jobs bill, you can hardly go wrong with the Kerry-Boxer bill that was passed out of the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee. And, as Senator Kerry points out in the Politico piece:
Kerry said the climate bill would create millions of new green jobs by providing incentives for businesses to invest in green technologies.
If you want to do a jobs bill this is the bill to do,” he said. “I would argue that with the president very very forcefully.”
Nonetheless, it appears this is not the path they intend to take.
Meanwhile, before the ink was even dried on the Kerry-Boxer bill in the Senate, Senator Kerry himself announced on November 4th that he was working with Senators Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman (I know, I KNOW!), to develop “a new ‘track’ of negotiations over climate policy that makes his original bill look somewhat irrelevant.” Kossack RLMiller has more on this HERE.
Kerry, appearing at the U.S. Capitol with Sens. Lindsay O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), said the three legislators would work with business groups and the White House to forge a compromise climate measure that could get 60 votes in the Senate.
The New York Times reported recently
The climate bill’s principle architects — Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) — are using the next three weeks to write a legislative outline, with plans to release the blueprint before the United Nations’ climate talks Dec. 7-18 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
It appears that in early November, facing Republican’s childish boycotting of EPW Committee hearings, these three Senators decided to come up with a bill that would pass the 60-vote fillibuster threshold right out of the gate. Lindsay Graham’s been surprisingly good on climate change and green jobs issues of late so, while I’m a bit dubious about him in general, his presence is encouraging as is his rhetoric. In an Associated Press article, he was quoted as saying “If environmental policy is not good business policy, you will not get 60 votes. The green economy is coming. We can either follow or lead.”
Joe Lieberman’s involvement, on the other hand, leaves me cold and listless. What has this man touched lately that hasn’t been left a steaming pile of feces?
There’s an interesting run-down on where we stand in the Senate in terms of votes on climate change legislation HERE (pdf).
The intent of this “tripartisan” group appears to be to move this along as quickly as possible so that, once the health reform, jobs and financial reform bills are finished in the Senate, they can move quickly to the climate bill.
CBO and EPA are likely to take up to five weeks to study the legislation, which is why Kerry and company want to get the outside review process started as soon as possible in order to be ready for a floor debate by the early to mid-spring. “We don’t want it to slip into the summer,” Graham said last week.
So what of the Kerry-Boxer bill? As Jason Kowalski notes at the 1Sky.org blog, it’s not dead yet:
The Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (CEJAPA) that passed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee a couple of weeks ago is far from dead, however. Despite new developments on the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman front, the Kerry-Boxer bill is still the foundations of the “regular order” committee process.
The next logical step for the Kerry-Boxer bill is for the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), to markup the legislation. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) noted that Baucus told her he would mark up a climate change bill in the Finance Committee in January. The Hill suggests by marking up the Kerry-Boxer legislation before committee work on the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill begins, “Baucus may be trying to lay down his legislative marker in the debate before it leaves him behind.”
Senator Kerry also told reporters that Senator Baucus would take up the legislation by early next year, saying, “Max is dead set serious about getting this done early and reporting back to us.” Baucus, however, was less forthcoming about his markup schedule. “Sometime soon,” he told reporters. “I don’t have a date.” Pressed for more specifics, Baucus replied, “I mean some time next year. The first part of next year. Put it that way.”
So that’s it in a nutshell. First a jobs bill and reform of the financial sector. Then climate protection and green energy legislation which will likely be some sort of mish-mash of the Kerry-Boxer bill and whatever the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman axis comes up with.
There’s something interesting, at least to me, in the recent developments with Kerry, Graham and Lieberman. Notice who’s missing in this little cuddlefest? Senator Barbara Boxer. She’s been a stallwart supporter of environmental issues and shrewdly navigated the EPW Committee through the utterly ridiculous boycott of the vote on the Kerry-Boxer bill, led by none other than James Inhofe. Yet Kerry seems to have tossed her aside to work with Lieberman and Graham? Really? I’d love to see her take on this and I suspect we’ll hear more from her before it’s over. And that, I think, would be a good thing.
I’m just sayin’…