Congress Takes A Pass On Climate Change
AUDIE CORNISH, Host:
This past week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he doesn't have the votes for a bill to charge companies for carbon pollution.
HARRY REID: Many of us want to do a thorough, comprehensive bill that creates jobs, breaks our addiction to foreign oil, and curbs pollution. Unfortunately at this time, we don't have a single Republican to work with in achieving this goal. For me, it's terribly disappointing and it's also very dangerous.
CORNISH: The only Republican even close to being on board was Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, but he backed off, and the Gulf spill hasn't changed his mind.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: I don't mind pricing carbon in a smart way. I'm not going to use the oil spill as a reason to do it. I think we should expand domestic exploration. My chances of doing that now are zero because of the oil spill.
CORNISH: Hello there, David.
DAVID WELNA: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: So earlier, we played that clip of Harry Reid, and he was trying to blame the Republicans for the implosion of the comprehensive climate proposal. But frankly, it seemed like he had a lot more trouble with the Democrats in his own caucus.
WELNA: Well, he was right that there are no Republicans right now who are willing to state their support for a comprehensive bill, but there are a number of Democrats as well. It would be very difficult to get to 60, the number you need to overcome a filibuster, without getting those Democrats on board. And right now, it doesn't seem like he's able to do that.
CORNISH: David, one thing I was hoping you could talk about are all the different factions in the Senate pulling one way or the other way when it comes to climate legislation.
WELNA: And it might surprise you, but many of the utilities were actually interested in working with Congress on getting such legislation passed because they wanted the certainty. They wanted to know what to expect, and they also would prefer to work with lawmakers than have the EPA tell them what to do.
CORNISH: Is part of this evidence that Democrats and President Obama, they've just exhausted their political capital? I mean, did they basically just run out of juice this summer when it came to climate change?
WELNA: And so if we have action this year on comprehensive energy legislation that would include some kind of restrictions on carbon emissions, it would probably happen in the lame duck Congress that follows those elections. At that point, those lawmakers would not have to worry about getting slammed at the polls right afterwards, if they cast a vote in favor of carbon restrictions.
CORNISH: Thanks, David.
WELNA: You're welcome, Audie.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.