An initial hearing Tuesday on revamped cap-and-trade legislation from Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-MA, and Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-CA, gave moderates a public mouthpiece that might spur concessions from party leaders down the road.
At the hearing in Boxer’s panel Tuesday, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-MT, cited “serious reservations” about the bill’s requirement for U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Boxer replied: “The goal is very, very doable.” Kerry agreed but said the target could change. “We’ll see what happens on the floor on that,” Kerry said. “I’m open to talking with Max; we’ll see where we end up.”
Boxer said she wants her climate bill to continue to preserve EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases despite complaints Tuesday from Baucus and Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa. “We have to keep the EPA in the game,” Boxer said. But, she added, “There are ways to make it more certain for people.” Specter challenged EPA Administrator Jackson at the hearing and Democratic leaders afterward to provide regulatory certainty.
“There’s a great deal to be gained by certainty so people can make plans,” Specter told Jackson. He also emphasized it is the job of Congress to lay out that roadmap for industries. “That’s really our job,” he said.
Kerry again left more room for change. “If people come to us and tell us they’re willing to vote for the bill if that’s not there, I’ll listen to them,” Kerry said.
If Boxer and Kerry gave differing assessments on what might change in their bill, it might reflect their different roles. Boxer hopes to at least start a markup next week, “which will be very thorough and probably take days,” she said.
Kerry is focused on moderates in both parties. He planned to sit down again Tuesday with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is suggesting a working group.
“How do you get people’s concerns addressed? You have a working group where they can show up,” Graham said.
He referred to such a group led by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on immigration reform. Their proposal failed to move on the Senate floor in 2007. “I think most people believe the climate change bills as they’re drafted are dead, but now people are getting a little more excited and energized” about the prospects of a breakthrough, he said.
Boxer is not expecting any of the seven panel Republicans to vote for her bill, but a five-seat Democratic edge gives her a cushion if Baucus and Specter defect.
That would still leave further concessions within the two parties.
“I think we’ll be able to resolve it on the floor,” Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., said. Carper — an Environment and Public Works member who has been working on addressing coal-state concerns — talked to critics last week about the 2020 target. “I was picking up good vibrations,” Carper said.
Reporter Darren Goode is with National Journal and writes for several other publications, including NewWest.Net.