There aren't enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.
"Now, there are others in Congress who would like to bring a climate change bill and add that [to an energy bill]," Dorgan said Tuesday morning on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal."
"You know, it would take 60 votes in the Senate to do that," he added. "I doubt very much whether those 60 votes exist right now."
President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have made clear that they intend to include an energy bill this summer as part of the Senate's busy schedule. The president has e-mailed supporters to build up support, while Reid has put committee chairmen on notice to be ready to work on a bill.
A key variable in crafting that bill would be the extent to which it will include measures to rein in climate change, like those proposed in legislation crafted by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). A leading Democrat, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had suggested those provisions might be offered as an amendment to an energy bill, but subsequently backed off those remarks after it sparked a small uproar over the process.
Dorgan said that while he supports a tax on carbon, he could not support a cap-and-trade program like the environmental regulation passed in the House a year ago. The North Dakota senator said he feared such a program would set up a carbon securities market with the potential for abuse.
Since Democrats control 59 votes in the Senate, Dorgan's defection would mean that the majority would be at least two votes short of moving forward on climate change regulations, assuming all other Democrats support the bill, and assuming no Republican defections.
The energy legislation, instead, would deal with supporting renewable energy and increasing regulation on existing energy production, in part to deal with the lapses in safety that helped contribute to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Dorgan said.
"I think that the 'front wheel drive' of that legislation will likely be some legislation that's probably necessary to respond to this crisis," he said. "My hope would be that that'll be brought to the floor at some point, because it does all the things that we should do as a country to address our energy needs, and make us less dependent on foreign oil, which is very important."
View a video of the C-SPAN segment below:
Cross-posted to E2 Wire.