STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
The oil spill influenced the debate on the country's energy future, but that does not necessarily mean that Congress will approve an energy bill.
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
NPR's David Welna reports.
DAVID WELNA: But that was not the bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a few days ago. He admitted his scaled-back proposal contained not one provision on climate change, which he said would not have the votes to pass.
INSKEEP: This bill is not our first choice, but it's our first step. We need, as you know - to have a broader bill, we need Republican support.
WELNA: Bill Meadows of the Wilderness Society, who was at the rollout, said he was hugely disappointed the measure did nothing to cut carbon emissions.
MONTAGNE: We'd love to have more, but it's simply not possible with the political arena that we're working in today.
WELNA: Others reacted more angrily. That same day, Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse went to the Senate floor and chided his leadership for taking a pass on climate change legislation. Sometimes, Whitehouse said, there's value in having a fight, even when you can't win.
INSKEEP: And if there's value in having a fight when you can't win, my God, there's value in having a fight when you can. And I think it was worth trying.
WELNA: Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, for his part, dismissed Reid's energy proposal as nothing more than a liberal wish-list.
INSKEEP: It's perfectly obvious that Democrats are doing their best to keep us from passing a serious energy bill before the August recess.
WELNA: I asked Majority Leader Reid why he was bringing up an energy bill only days before the Senate's to leave town. He said it's all the fault of McConnell and his fellow Republicans.
INSKEEP: They've stalled everything the rest of the year. When else would I bring it up? Do they want to never bring it up? That's the answer. The answer is yes. We have to bring it up some time.
WELNA: New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, who crafted the measure, says it would remove all limits for how much those firms can be sued.
INSKEEP: It's a simple, common-sense proposition, the proposition that we learned all while we were growing up: When you mess up, you clean up. You're responsible for what you do. When a company is perfectly happy to make billions of dollars taking a risky activity in public waters, then it needs to be perfectly comfortable with paying for any and all economic damages if and when something goes horribly wrong.
WELNA: Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski says Democrats will have to back down on this.
INSKEEP: I think that's one of those key provisions, that we've got to be able to have discussion on it. Because if the answer for them is no liability and no amendments to this, I think it's going to be very difficult to reach a compromise.
WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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