Monday, March 1, 2010

Hope for a Climate Bill

By Nya Jackson
March 1, 2010

With the likelihood of the passage of a healthcare bill before the November elections looking bleak, Democrats in Congress are increasingly turning their attention to the passage of a climate bill. The Washington Post recently reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called on Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to produce a new climate bill as soon as possible. Kerry is working with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT) to draft a bill that can attract bipartisan support. “Finally some good news,” was the response of Jason Von Kundra, co-chair of Mason's Environmental Action Group, when he heard of Reid’s call for a climate bill. Von Kundra’s reaction represents the sentiment of many Mason students to the prospect of a climate bill in the near future.
“The majority leader is deadly serious about making progress this year on climate and energy reform," Kerry said in a statement to reporters recently. It’s great that the majority leader is deeply involved in the process of getting a climate bill drafted, but Colin Bennett of Mason's Office of Sustainability wants to know if Republicans are in support of the bill. “Passing a climate bill will require the Senate to come together as a whole, to draft a bill that protects the environment, while also taking our economy into consideration. The Democrats can't do it alone,” said Bennett. Looking back on the well-publicized health-care fight, Republican support for this bill will prove crucial.
Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation, reported to the Washington Post that the only way to create a bipartisan coalition is to seek Republican input on the bill early in the process to “create the overall architecture of legislation, not waiting until after the bill is drafted and looking for what concessions or what changes need to be made to round up three Republican votes.” Biology student Jose Gayoso regards bi-partisan support from the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as the first test to whether climate legislation will pass this year. “If the bill doesn’t originate from this committee, whose members are regarded as having expertise on the issue, and can’t receive bi-partisan support within the committee it’s unlikely to have success in the Senate as a whole” said Gayoso. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, will be a crucial vote for this bill.
Not only does Senate Majority Leader Reid’s push for a climate bill give environmentalists, public health advocates, and other supporters of climate legislation reason for hope, but President Obama is also committed to the issue. Last December, at the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen the President pledged climate action in the U.S. including creating a system to cap U.S. greenhouse gas levels and helping to mobilize $100 billion in annual funding from developed countries by 2020 to help poorer nations. Although winning Republican support for a climate bill might require adding provisions favored by the oil industries, or scaling back the legislation's scope, Von Kundra believes that the U.S. needs to demonstrate progress to maintain international credibility and he's hopeful that, “November elections, the recent U.S. pledges in Copenhagen, and pressure from Reid and Obama will result in a climate bill this year”.

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