With several scaled-back climate and energy measures being drafted in the Senate, which provisions will be kept and which will be dropped from a final package? During today's OnPoint, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) gives his take on the prospects for passing climate and energy legislation this year. He also explains the key issues Senate leadership is considering as it decides how to move forward with a bill.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the show. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Senator Daschle is currently a senior policy adviser at DLA Piper. Senator Daschle, thanks for coming on the show.
Tom Daschle: Thanks for having me, Monica.
Monica Trauzzi: Senator, the Senate debate on climate and energy legislation is shaping up to be all about the utilities. There are several utility-only proposals in the works right now. Why is it so important to tackle this sector and what are some of the negatives for only tackling this sector and leaving the others aside, not doing a comprehensive bill?
Tom Daschle: Well, I still think that the possibility for a comprehensive bill exists. In fact, I'm very supportive and the coalition that I've been working with is very supportive of ensuring that regardless of what we do with regard to pricing carbon, that we make sure that we have the tax tools available to us, the conservation and efficiency policy that we need so badly, a recognition of the importance of an RES, a renewable energy standard, and then, obviously, we have to ensure that we have the transmission once we build the energy capacity. Those kinds of things, regardless of anything else, I think are so critical to a comprehensive bill and I think are very doable.
Monica Trauzzi: And is enough emphasis being placed on those items that you just listed?
Tom Daschle: Not enough today, but I think as we get closer to the legislation, as I understand it, there is broad support now. Republicans and Democrats support those four components and so I'm very hopeful that, as I say, there may be other things that can get 60 votes, those four components I know will get 60 votes.
Monica Trauzzi: What's your take on the level of urgency being placed on this issue by Senate leadership and by the White House?
Tom Daschle: Well, I think there's increasing appreciation for the urgency. This is the last, best opportunity we have to pass meaningful, comprehensive energy legislation this year. This window is going to close sometime in early August, we know that, so I think the key now is to make this time that we have available to us as productive as possible. So, I think the urgency is increasing and I'm very hopeful that as people understand that urgency, that we are going to keep to the schedule that the leader has articulated, beginning on the 26, finishing some time shortly thereafter.
Monica Trauzzi: The American Wind Energy Association recently brought you on as a consultant to help lobby Congress to pass this legislation. What's the tone from the members? Is it the sense that they want to get this past the finish line?
Tom Daschle: Well, one thing I want to clarify is that I personally don't lobby. I'm not a registered lobbyist, but I think we have a broad coalition who wants to impress upon the Congress that this is the single best thing we can do for jobs, it's the single best thing we can do for energy independence, it's the single best thing we can do for reducing carbon. That message, along with urgency, is really what every member of Congress, we hope, will understand and that the coalition is fanning out in an effort to try to get that message across.
Monica Trauzzi: There was so much emphasis placed on the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman collaboration a few months back and now the bill is being heavily reworked by senators Kerry and Lieberman in order to change its chance for passage. Is a full cap and trade ever really a distinct possibility for the U.S.? Can something like that ever really get the votes? Is it feasible for our economy?
Tom Daschle: Well, you ask a very good question and a question that I would say, in the way you've asked it, I would say there's always a possibility. Ever is a long time. And I think that it's probably not likely in the foreseeable future, given the tremendous opposition that we have and the concern there is for many of the industries involved. But I think that possibility may exist at some point in the future. For our purposes in the next few weeks however, we're for what ever we can do that will get 60 votes and we don't want to hold this comprehensive, extraordinarily productive opportunity hostage to any one provision that fails to do so. We can reduce carbon. We can create jobs. We can build on energy independence if we do the things we know that already have 60 votes.
Monica Trauzzi: As a former majority leader, what are the key things that Senator Reid is looking at right now and weighing as he decides how to move forward with this, especially considering that we have the midterm elections just a few months away?
Tom Daschle: I think the most important thing that he's looking at today is what's possible. What will reach that 60 vote threshold? I think he's probably fairly of agnostic on some of the things that may be involved, but what he's already said he is he needs something to do with the oil spill itself, he wants to do some sort of a carbon related project, he wants to ensure that we have the opportunities to expand our renewable energy base and he wants to have conservation. Those are the components he said would be in the bill, but the bottom line for him is what has 60 votes?
Monica Trauzzi: So, if we don't have legislation passed this year, EPA will begin regulating emissions on its own. Is that putting additional pressure on the Congress? Do you get that sense or is that sort of on the back burner?
Tom Daschle: No, I think there is. I think for a lot of members they feel that it's a delegation of authority that they're uncomfortable with. Is the law of the land and so there may not be any other choice, but I will say that I think that is a motivation. It may not be pressure, but it's certainly a motivation to keep the legislative process within the Legislature and not in the courts.
Monica Trauzzi: OK, we'll end it there. Thank you for coming on the show.
Tom Daschle: My pleasure.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
[End of Audio]