Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and nine Senate supporters kicked off the autumn global warming debate today with a campaign-style rally releasing their comprehensive climate bill.
"We know clean energy is the ticket to strong, sustainable economic growth," Boxer, the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said at the Capitol Hill event, in front of a large American flag and three dozen or so military veterans, business leaders and environmentalists.
"Ultimately, this bill is about keeping Americans safe," added Kerry, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
The Boxer-Kerry bill, the "Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act," comes in at 821 pages, starting with a mandate by 2020 to curb the nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 2005 levels. It omits many details, leaving negotiations with Democrats and Republican moderates to fill in the blanks.
But the measure offers specifics on several critical issues, ranging from incentives for natural gas and nuclear power to how Congress can promote tree planting and sustainable farming practices as alternative compliance options for industry.
The bill's sponsors also sought to change the legislative lingo surrounding the bill, dropping references to "cap and trade." Instead, Kerry and Boxer released a summary of their bill that labeled greenhouse gas trading provisions as a "Pollution Reduction and Investment" program. Boxer also touted a proposal allocating emission allowances that is aimed at fiscal conservatives who think past climate proposals cost too much.
"The bill does not add one penny to the deficit," Boxer said. "We're very excited about that."
The unveiling of the Senate climate bill comes almost three months after House passage of H.R. 2454, a comprehensive climate and energy bill that is a centerpiece of President Obama's domestic agenda.
In a prepared statement, Obama today praised Kerry and Boxer "for their leadership on comprehensive energy reform."
"With the draft legislation they are announcing today, we are one step closer to putting America in control of our energy future and making America more energy independent," Obama said. "My administration is deeply committed to passing a bill that creates new American jobs and the clean energy incentives that foster innovation. I commend Senators Boxer and Kerry for their work and look forward to signing comprehensive energy legislation that addresses this urgent challenge."
Senior Obama administration officials are scheduled to meet later today with local elected officials from Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and Ohio who were in Washington to see the bill unveiled.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was instrumental in moving the House climate bill before the July Fourth recess, called the Kerry-Boxer measure "a strong foundation for Senate action on our clean energy future."
"I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to deliver to the President a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill as soon as possible to ensure the success of the Copenhagen negotiations," Pelosi said in a statement, referring to a major U.N. climate summit slated for the Denmark capitol in December.