Lieberman on Tuesday suggested starting the debate on legislation this month and letting it carry over until after senators get back from the August recess.
“[The utility companies] want to work with us to see if they can negotiate an agreement on a utility-only bill,” Lieberman said. “But as far as they are concerned, they can’t do it in 10 days, so they pleaded for more time, and I think that is something we ought to consider.”
“I hope that we are not going to force ourselves to be constrained by an artificial schedule,” Lieberman added.
After meeting with electric utility officials Tuesday morning, Kerry said the “irony of ironies” is that the industry prefers a draft plan he and Lieberman released in May that would spread a carbon-pricing program more broadly across the economy.
“They believe the allocations and the structure we created [in the original plan] really meets their needs,” Kerry said. “Whether we can replicate that now in terms of what we’re doing is what we have to go back and try to find out.”
There are not enough votes in the Senate for the economy-wide strategy he and Lieberman rolled out in May. Democratic leaders hope a scaled-back plan focused on utilities will get 60 votes.
Kerry said the issue is not going away. “So if we’re not about to do that now … it’s absolutely going to continue as an issue,” he said. “But the politics aren’t going to change in the next three months necessarily, so we have to see where we are with the utilities.”
Officials from the Edison Electric Institute — the main trade association for investor-owned utilities — have been meeting with Kerry this week. An official with the group declined to comment on the talks.
Kerry said the question is whether “there is a way for us to meet the levels and the structure” encompassed in the utility portion of that broader draft. Electric utility companies are “ready to go, they wanna do this,” Kerry said. “But they believe they need to do it in a way that they can look at their customers and really guarantee them … it’s not going to result in an increased cost to them.” Kerry said.
Their earlier plan in May “gave them that guarantee. And that’s what they want,” Kerry said.