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CQ Politics: Boxer Crosses Aisle For Help on Climate Bill

July 9, 2009

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Senator Barbara Boxer needs to assemble a broad coalition to garner support for President Obama's climate change bill. This article details how she is attempting to do this, and what alliances she has forged in the process.

Senators rarely turn to House members for pointers on legislative strategy. And it's even more unlikely to find Barbara Boxer , the brash California liberal, soliciting strategic advice from Rick Boucher , a strong advocate of his Virginia district's coal industry, on how to get a global warming bill through the Senate.

But Boxer must assemble a broad coalition behind the sweeping climate change bill that forms the cornerstone of President Obama's energy agenda and is one of her own top priorities. Privately, many Hill watchers are skeptical (and indeed sometimes dismissive) of Boxer's capacity to summon the clout and support to pull a broad coalition together. But that initiative falls squarely under her jurisdiction as chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and so for the past two months, she has been doing what any Senate dealmaker does on the verge of a historic legislative push: methodically reaching out to all manner of potential allies - lawmakers, coal-staters, even Republicans.

It's the same approach the White House has used in its other big initiatives, from the February stimulus vote to the pending debate over health care. And Boxer aims to keep the proceedings on a tight schedule. Her committee starts hearings this week on the House-passed version of the bill, and she expects to have the legislation marked up and through the panel by the time Congress leaves for the August recess.

For Boxer, however, the run-up to the Senate climate change debate will mark the difference between publicly touting an environmentalist agenda, as she has for years, and ensuring that one comes to pass, with all the back-scratching and compromises that come with moving any major bill. Many Hill watchers are skeptical that Boxer, known more for being a voice of protest from the left than for actually moving legislation, can tone down her abrasive style and deploy some diplomatic skills as chairwoman to make it happen.

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