House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio was among the first to bash the Senate bill.
"The national energy tax was a terrible idea when it passed the House, and it is an even worse idea now," Boehner said in a press release. "Middle-class families and small businesses struggling to make ends meet shouldn't be punished with costly legislation that will increase electricity bills, raise gasoline prices and ship more American jobs overseas."
45 supporters and counting
Prospects for the Senate climate bill are uncertain.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) earlier this month acknowledged the legislative reality that any unfinished business would not expire with the new year. And he told reporters yesterday that Democrats remain on track to move the legislation before the Copenhagen negotiations.
Senate Republicans critical of the climate bill do not think the Boxer-Kerry bill has enough legs to make it into law by Copenhagen. The Environment Committee's ranking member, James Inhofe (R-Okla.), said yesterday that he expects Obama to use House-passed legislation and a committee-approved bill as his main arguments at the U.N. talks.
According to an E&E analysis of the Senate, Kerry and Boxer can count on about 45 "yes" or "probably yes" votes as they move forward. Several of those lawmakers attended today's rally: Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
There are 21 "fence sitters" pivotal to passing the bill. They include Democrats and Republicans who have offered positive statements about the legislative process, including Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Other lawmakers on that list -- Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example -- have sounded recently like anything but cap-and-trade supporters.
Murkowski, the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is scheduled to join several Senate GOP leaders and rank-and-file Republicans during an afternoon press conference billed as a chance "to discuss the national energy tax in the Boxer-Kerry bill."
Pennsylvania Democrat Arlen Specter, also a fence sitter, had originally planned to be at the Capitol Hill press conference but changed course to be at an event with Obama at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
The former Republican did release a statement that indicated he hopes to be on board when the climate legislation is finished.
"I support legislation to create clean domestic energy and address climate change in a way that is economically responsible, environmentally effective, and encourages action by other countries to achieve these goals," Specter said. "I believe the Kerry-Boxer bill can be structured, with committee and floor amendments, to meet these goals subject to the following considerations."
Specter then listed six provisions, including a "modified price collar" that gives "greater price certainty" than the House-passed legislation without busting the emissions cap; "the right combination of incentives and mandates" for commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies; advance payment of bonus allowances for qualifying CCS projects; "adequate allowances" for steel and other energy-intensive, trade-sensitive manufacturers; transportation provisions; and incentives for natural gas.