COPENHAGEN -- Top House Democrats said today they do not think President Obama should give the Senate a deadline when it comes to passing global warming and energy legislation.
"It's very nice to set goals, but not deadlines," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said in an interview on the sidelines of the U.N. climate negotiations here. "I'd hope they'd pass it as soon as they can get it done."
"I don't see that we need a deadline," added Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the lead sponsor of the House-passed climate bill. "We just need to keep moving."
Former Vice President Al Gore earlier this week in Copenhagen said Obama should press the Senate to pass its version of climate legislation by the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, next April 22.
But that suggestion has largely been ignored. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who previously has said he has saved time for the bill next spring, declined to comment on the idea of trying to pass the bill before Earth Day.
And a senior Obama administration official did not bite earlier this week when asked about Gore's idea.
"With respect to a deadline, we've been working hard in the Senate to put together the pieces that will become comprehensive energy legislation," the official said. "Since this will be a very important piece of legislation, it will have to go through all of the normal CBO modeling, et cetera. We're going to do everything in our power to move it as quickly as possible."
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have taken the lead in trying to cobble together a bill capable of passing the Senate with 60 votes.
The trio released a very broad blueprint last week but are likely to wait until at least the end of January before they go any further in introducing a bill. Kerry said he is waiting for Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to send along their contributions too.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who is among the 21 House members in the Copenhagen congressional delegation, said in an interview that he doubted Reid would set any deadlines for moving the climate bill. "Every deadline he's set he's missed by a mile," Sensenbrenner said.
And even if the Senate does pass a bill, Sensenbrenner said he doubted an amended conference report would make it through the politically charged House so close to the midterm elections, citing the narrow 219-212 vote in June.
"The political mix in the United States is considerably different than that now," Sensenbrenner said.