Senator tells climate activists: "this is really when grassroots count."
Fresh off the first Senate hearing for the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, the bill's co-author, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) said he was confident the Senate would be able to bring a bill to the floor for a full vote before the Copenhagen climate talks, now just over a month away.
But Kerry also downplayed the importance of coming out of the upcoming talks with a completed document, saying, "I don't expect Copenhagen to come up with a full treaty." The senator did say it will be important to set firm political targets and then have a series of follow-up meetings to sort out the technical specifics.
Kerry, speaking on a conference call with a group of young climate activists on Tuesday night, said the timing of getting a climate bill through before Copenhagen was complicated. Kerry told the young leaders that, "The difficulty is that we are somewhat controlled by the healthcare debate."
To move the bill along, Kerry said natural gas and nuclear incentives will likely play a larger role in the Senate bill -- concessions that Kerry said were necessary to get the 60 votes they need for passage -- but that moderate members of the Senate on both sides of the aisle need some convincing.
In particular, Kerry named senators Evan Bayh and Dick Lugar of Indiana, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico as fence-sitters that still need to be nudged toward supporting to the bill. When asked a question by a person from Virginia, Kerry added to that list senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb of Virginia.
Kerry reminded the young leaders on the call that it was the environmental movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s who brought about the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others, and urged them to "gin up the phone calls; gin-up the mail."
"This is really when grassroots count," said Kerry.
But some fence-sitters, like Senator George V. Voinovich of Ohio, a possible Republican vote in favor of climate change legislation, said the committee was moving too hastily on a complex bill.
“Why are we trying to jam down this legislation now? asked Voinovich. “Wouldn’t it be smarter to take our time and do it right?”
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will continue holding hearings on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act through the end of this week.