Senate Democrats Ready to Take On Climate Change

senate house photo

Photo: James Bowe

The recent passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 by a narrow margin in the House of Representatives has placed some serious pressure on Senate Democratic leaders, who are furiously scrambling to get the bill passed in the Senate. It seems to be an opportune time to use some of President Obama's political capital in order to make some serious headway on climate change in 2009. "Now is the time to act," President Obama announced regarding Congress's newest climate bill debate. Top dems, including Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanual, and former Vice President Al Gore, are vigorously pushing to get the bill through Congress on the recent wave of legislative action.

Last week, Matthew wrote that the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced the landmark Waxman-Markey climate legislation to the House floor by a vote of 33-25. The committee votes fell largely along party lines. On Friday evening, the full House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 219-212. Forty-four Democrats voted against the bill, while just eight Republicans crossed the aisle to back it, according to Politico.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act
The new climate change bill would offer incentives for energy efficiency and the development of clean energy technology with the aim of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by more than 83 percent by 2050.

Dems Make Concessions to Pass Climate Bill
The Obama Administration has made some major concessions in an effort to get Republican support for the legislation, including a four-year delay before some new regulations that would cut the profits of corn-based ethanol take effect. Instead, the bill encourages the development of non-food biofuels. The revisions also lowered the bill's target reduction goals for carbon emissions, which has many environmental organizations complaining that the bill is not rigorous enough. Although dissatisfied with some of the revisions, most environmental organizations still support this landmark legislation.

Even with these concessions, however, most House Republicans and over forty House Democrats could not get on board. Opponents of the legislation maintain that the bill would constitute a dangerous blow to an already weakened American economy. As Alex recently wrote, the Heritage Foundation claims that the bill would destroy over a million net jobs, impose over $1,500 in energy costs on families, and slash GDP by $9.6 trillion by 2030.

President Obama used his weekly radio and internet address on Saturday to encourage the Senate to approve the legislation. "We cannot be afraid of the future. And we must not be prisoners of the past. Don't believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth."

Although the bill has been approved by the House of Representatives, the legislation faces at least one major hurdle in the Senate -- a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will need at least sixty votes to overcome the filibuster of any disapproving senator. Senator Reid has indicated that the Senate will consider the legislation by the fall.

More on the Climate Change Bill:
The Man Who Can Stop the Climate Bill Doesn't Understand What Climate Change Is
Guide to the Democrats' Energy and Climate Bill: the Greenest in US History?
Electric Utilities Unite in Favor of Climate Change Bill