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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said yesterday that he would try to bring a global warming bill to the floor before the end of summer, another indication that both sides of Capitol Hill want to send major climate legislation to President Obama during his first year in office.
"We have to take a whack at it," the Nevada Democrat told the Associated Press in an interview, explaining that failure to act "would be neglectful."
Reid repeated his plans to take up a more limited energy proposal during the next six-week work period that includes a national renewable electricity standard. But turning to the more complex climate issue, he added, "And then later this year, hopefully late this summer, do the global warming part of it."
Reid's comments to AP mark the first time he has disclosed a timetable for the next big floor debate on climate change. Earlier this month, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told reporters she would move a global warming bill out of committee before the end of the year, but she deferred to Reid when asked about a floor schedule.
Reid's plans also dovetail with those of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has pledged a first-ever floor vote this year on a climate bill. Pelosi has said she will work from a comprehensive energy and climate package that House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) plans to mark up before Memorial Day. Pelosi is also expected to have help from the House Ways and Means Committee and several other panels that are holding hearings and considering legislation on the twin issues of global warming and energy policy.
"We have to set goals in order to get work done," a Senate Democratic aide explained today about the leadership's aggressive schedule for moving a climate bill.
Democrats and Obama face many obstacles in trying to move a climate bill. Advocates likely are within sight of a majority of votes, but it will take considerable deal-making among Democrats, let alone trying to win over a few Republicans. Heated regional debates are expected over the legislation's economic effects, as well as international trade and where and how to distribute what may amount to hundreds of billions of dollars in emission allowances.
"Given our economic challenges and the need to develop an energy strategy, I think attempting to do a climate change bill at the same time is unrealistic and frankly unadvisable," warned Marc Morano, a spokesman for Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).
At this point, it is unclear exactly what type of global warming bill the Democratic leaders want to move this year—and in what sequence with energy. While Reid wants to keep energy and climate separate, Waxman has said he is inclined to bunch the two items together into one measure.
Speaking with reporters last week, Waxman said he had not yet discussed strategy for global warming and energy legislation with the Obama administration. "I'd be interested in their recommendations, but we'll have to make our own decisions," he said.