Senate Climate Bill Progress Report: "Definite Republican Votes," Dems Have New Demands

With the fast approaching global climate talks in Copenhagen occupying climate watchers, a far overblown non-scandal hogging the limelight, and health care reform distracting American politicos, the status of the Senate clean energy reform bill may have fallen a bit out of focus as of late. But it's still very much alive--and doing rather well, actually. The bill has some "definite votes" from Republican senators, has majority public support, and 9 of the most important fence-sitting Dems have drafted a letter stating exactly what would bring them on board. Here's the full progress report.

GOP Support for the Climate Bill

First, some of the best news is that there appears to be some confirmed support from at least a few GOP senators--which isn't so surprising since Lindsay Graham (R-SC) joined with John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in drafting a bipartisan bill. The Hill reports: "There are definite Republican votes for this legislation right now, and we hope to grow that over the next weeks and months," said Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, on a conference call with reporters. He did not provide names or numbers."

Drawing some Republican senators' votes is of the utmost importance, because there are a handful of Democrats who appear to be dead set against clean energy reform:

Securing some GOP support is likely crucial because a small number of Democrats, such as Mary Landrieu (La.), are considered unlikely to endorse cap-and-trade legislation. Several Republicans, including Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), are potential votes in favor of a climate bill.

Swing Vote Dems' State Their Conditions

And now for less-good news: the 9 Democrats whose votes are vital to the passage of the bill have drafted a letter to Obama outlining their conditions for pledging their support. One hand, clear demands will make it easier for negotiations to proceed. On the other, they call for what amounts to a carbon tariff--taxing goods-importing countries that don't have measures in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions--which would infuriate major trade partners like China and India.

Green Inc reports:

The signers of the letter say they will support climate legislation and international efforts to combat global warming if all nations -- industrialized as well as developing -- are held to stringent limits on climate-altering emissions. They say that tough verification and enforcement mechanisms are necessary. They want to see trade penalties levied against nations that do not comply with any international agreement.

These demands, which may seem to make sense on paper, would be nearly impossible to carry out in reality--developing nations are reluctant to set any kind of binding carbon reduction targets, much less ones that could subject them to a financial penalty. Nonetheless, the letter makes clear what sort of deal-making needs to occur in order to bring the fence-sitters on board.

In other words, there's still very much hope for a clean energy reform bill to pass the Senate when it comes to a vote next Spring.

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