Newsweek's Katie Connolly examines the outlook on climate change legislation in the U.S. senate.
The night that the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Ed Markey, one of the bill's authors, got a phone call from Rahm Emanuel. The significance of the legislative feat achieved by Markey and committee chair Henry Waxman-persuading a relatively conservative committee filled with coal-state representatives to approve a comprehensive climate-change bill-is a fact oft forgotten in the rowdy world of climate politics. But it wasn't lost on a seasoned political operative like Emanuel. "Congratulations," the sharp-tongued White House chieftain told Markey. "I really wasn't sure you had the votes."
Climate-change legislation now faces a similarly uphill battle in the Senate. Though it was originally slated to be considered in late 2009, prospects for it reaching the floor before 2010 are dim. In early September, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.)pushed back the release of their comprehensive climate bill, which will serve as a companion bill to Waxman-Markey. When questioned last week about the outlook for climate-change legislation, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that his calendar was "very, very busy" for the rest of the year, adding that, "of course, nothing terminates at the end of this year. We still have next year to complete things." Aides scrambled to walk back those comments, saying that no, he does want to move quickly. Reid's press secretary, Jim Manley, says his boss still intends to pursue all three of the president's legislative priorities this year: health-care reform, regulatory reform, and global-warming legislation. He believes there will be a bill on the Senate floor by year's end. Still, Reid's comments continue to fuel speculation that climate-change legislation won't see the light of day until 2010.