Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) appears to not like the draft legislation being put together by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). In letter send last week to Kerry, Sanders said, "I have serious concerns about provisions that could harm our environment and provide new federal government support for polluters." That's damning criticism for a bill that's in its infancy and that is likely to be weakened as the grinding legislative process goes forward.Specifically, Sanders, a long-time environment advocate, sees problems with the massive giveaways in the draft bill to the coal and nuclear industries and a rule to strip states of their ability to regulate greenhouse gases.
Although Sanders sees great flaws in the draft framework, he also seems to sympathize with the huge challenge Kerry and his cohorts have in getting enough votes in the Senate.
"The difficulty that Senator Kerry or anybody has is we don't have 60 votes to pass a strong global warming bill that moves away from fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions," Sanders told reporters in the Capitol. "It is a very conservative institution and we don't have the votes."
"The choice is, as I suspect Senator Kerry is wrestling with, is whether it is better to do something or nothing," he added.
Framing climate in scientific terms
Sanders is doing what many on the left are afraid to do, framing climate change in scientific realities. There may be room for political compromise, but mother nature does not negotiate. Scientists say we must peak emissions by 2015 and then get them as close to zero as possible by 2050. Kerry's bill, if enacted, sets weak short-term goals and has giant giveaways to the very polluters that need to reduce their emissions.
Sanders leadership will be crucial as the debate moves forward. Such principled leadership is hard to find these days and is most welcome.