Pelosi confident in Senate climate action despite hurdles

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a crowd of union members and environmentalists Tuesday the Senate is “very close” to passing a sweeping energy and climate change bill.

“The Senate is very close, and with your advocacy, I think we can pretty soon put legislation on the president’s desk that will be very important to our national security, to our children's health, to our innovation and our competitiveness...and to our moral responsibility with regard to the planet,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi spoke at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by unions and environmental groups, including the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, as well as Alcoa and other companies.

The House passed a major climate and energy bill almost a year ago, but the Senate has yet to act. Climate change is a signature issue for Pelosi.

But her comments come as the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill is creating new uncertainty about Senate legislation that already faces large hurdles to passage this year.

The senators crafting the bill – John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) – have planned to include measures that promote wider offshore drilling.

They see merging increased oil-and-gas and nuclear power development with greenhouse gas caps as a path to winning 60 votes.

But drilling opponents have ramped up their fight against expanded oil-and-gas leasing in the wake of the spill, and the focus on Capitol Hill has quickly shifted to questions such as the adequacy of offshore safety regulations.

The increased concern about drilling could fracture efforts to assemble the bipartisan coalition needed to win 60 votes. Graham last week reaffirmed his support for wider drilling, but coastal state Democrats that oppose it – including New Jersey’s senators – have new momentum.

In addition, Graham last month suspended his support for advancing the bill because he’s furious with Democratic plans to advance immigration legislation.

Pelosi, despite the questions swirling around the bill, lauded Graham’s work on the climate and energy bill. “I am very proud of Lindsey Graham. I shouldn’t say that because it might get him in some trouble,” she said.