A Senate Republican introduced legislation today aimed at preventing Democrats from adding cap and trade to a House and Senate energy conference, a move anticipated by some Republicans if the Senate fails to pass a climate bill under normal procedures.
The amendment from Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) would require the support of two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, to include cap-and-trade climate legislation in a House-Senate conference report if the Senate has not already debated and approved it with the normal 60-vote threshold.
"My legislation holds Congress accountable and ensures a fair and open debate about cap and trade instead of quietly slipping it into law," Johanns said. "It's shocking that the majority would consider circumventing the will of the public to pass cap and trade in a lame-duck session with zero debate in the Senate."
Cap-and-trade advocates are scrambling to find a way to eke out a Senate climate bill after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dashed their hopes last week by dropping plans to include any emission limits in a scaled-back energy bill. Reid is expected to announce details of the oil spill response and energy package this afternoon, his spokeswoman said.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democrats' top climate negotiator, has suggested that a lame-duck debate is possible after the November election, giving at least a glimmer of hope to many advocates of a carbon cap.
In the end, joint House-Senate conference committees will likely hammer out the final versions of whatever oil spill response or energy measures are passed in the remainder of the session. That might not take place until a lame-duck session after the November election, when much of the political pressure on lawmakers has dissipated.
Some observers have speculated that the House-passed cap-and-trade bill could be back in play during conference, or that Democratic leaders could use a conference to ratchet up the climate regulations beyond what the Senate agreed to.
"We have a lot of wiggle room in conference," a House Democratic aide told E&E last month (E&E Daily, June 28).
"The plan to do cap and trade in a lame duck is premised on senators and House members being free and liberated from the tethers of the American people," Johanns said today on the Senate floor. "That's extraordinary, and it's deeply troubling."
Johanns filed his amendment as a second-degree amendment to a provision from Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and George LeMieux (R-Fla.). That amendment would add a provision to the Senate's pending small-business jobs bill encouraging banks to make loans to small businesses.