WASHINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Comprehensive energy legislation is likely off the table after the departure of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a Senate Democratic aide said Wednesday evening, but the chamber can still pass a “scaled back” bill that boosts clean energy.
“I just can’t see where we’d get 60 votes for a comprehensive energy bill with a cap on carbon at this point,” the aide to a senator on the Environment and Public Works Committee, who is closely involved with the issue, told Raw Story.
Graham, the sole and critical Republican in the Senate who pledged to support a cap and trade bill, told CongressDaily Wednesday he’d vote against the Kerry-Lieberman bill he helped craft, leaving Democrats confused and upset.
“His involvement set a floor for what was acceptable in that bill, and the compromises made were not in a progressive direction,” the aide said. “And, at the end of the day he’s still not there to support it. So that’s a problem.”
In a New York Times op-ed co-authored with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) last October, Graham argued that “climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security.” Explaining his reversal in a press conference Wednesday, he told reporters that “the science [of global warming] is in question,” and that progressives have been “alarmist” and “oversold this stuff, quite frankly.”
Graham’s departure means Republicans are unanimous in their opposition to cap and trade in the Senate, putting Democrats in a precarious bind with a ticking clock, and forcing them to consider a less ambitious bill.
The staffer, optimistic that the Senate will pass an energy bill of some sort this year, rejected the commonly held liberal belief that a carbon cap is critical to successful reform, alleging that “itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a red herring to say we have to have a cap, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the only thing that matters.”
“If we passed a bill that has a good renewable energy standard, has strong building codes, invests in efficiency and raises fuel economy, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re on the path to lowering emissions, and it makes it easier to pass cap and trade later,” argued the aide, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has brought the issue to the forefront of the national debate, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last week told colleagues he expects to move on an energy bill next month.
The cap and trade legislation passed by the House of Representatives last summer will be defunct in January, and it’s uncertain whether the next Congress will take up the issue.
“Frankly, I see almost no likelihood of us leaving this Congress without addressing energy,” the aide said. “Not after the oil spill and disaster in the Gulf.”
Sahil Kapur is Washington correspondent for Raw Story. He Tweets here.