Lawmakers left Capitol Hill for their August break on a dramatic note, tripling the cash for clunkers budget at the 11th hour in an effort to make it last at least until their session begins after Labor Day. While the $3 billion ended up running out ahead of schedule, next Tuesday Congress will be picking up where it left off, negotiating legislation related to the economy, climate change, and other issues that puts billions of dollars and many tons of CO2 in the balance. Here’s what to expect on the clean energy front:
Delays: Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry said this week that they are pushing back the date for introducing their version of the climate and energy bill — again — until later this month, rather than next week as previously planned. The additional time will be used to “work on the final details…and to reach out to colleagues and important stakeholders,” the two Democrats said in a statement.
Distractions: Lawmakers have a full plate of urgent issues this fall that, for better or worse, may take priority over climate policy, including an overhaul of health care, financial regulations (the White House has pressed for reform by year’s end), the economy and several appropriations bills.
Year End Crunch: International climate talks are slated to take place in Copenhagen in December, less than 100 days from now. The Obama administration and others have been pushing to have U.S. climate and energy rules on the books ahead of the negotiations, which will determine the policy to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
At the rate the Senate is going, that deadline may be unrealistic, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is still pushing. His office said this week that despite the expected delays, he anticipates lawmakers will have “ample time” to consider comprehensive climate and energy legislation. Once a version clears the Senate, then it’s on to a full session markup for more compromises, carve-outs and political jujitsu.