An Energy Bill Wrapped in an Enigma

Kate Sheppard
The new package is supposed to be finalized next week. So why doesn’t anyone know anything about it?
Senate Democrats plan to debate an energy package when they return from this week’s recess—one they hope will be a slam-dunk with voters, considering the outrage churning in the country after the Gulf disaster. But there’s still shockingly little in the way of specifics—including whether the package will include any climate change provisions at all.
Democrats emerged from a caucus meeting in late June flying high on the idea that a comprehensive package—one that sets new rules on the oil industry, incentivizes clean energy production, and possibly puts a price on carbon—would be a winner. And if Republicans blocked it, they reasoned, Democrats could use it as a bludgeon in the November elections.
“A number of senators said this was the best caucus they’ve ever attended,” said majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). John Kerry (D-Mass.) described the meeting as “inspirational.” Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said it was “an uprising of rank-and-file members of the caucus.”
But that initial enthusiasm was short-lived. After a bipartisan group of senators met with President Obama, Republicans were still reticent about a cap on carbon, while Democrats said they had offered to scale back their plans yet again.
Now, just days before the July session resumes, no one seems to have any idea where things are headed. “Staff are preparing options for members to review next week but no decisions yet,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley. “I don’t have a sense, and I’m not sure that anybody firmly has a sense, of what is being brought up and when,” said a Democratic aide.

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