Sen. Reid hopes to avoid farm-state blowup

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSanders hires veteran progressive operative to manage 2020 bid Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Klobuchar: 'I don't remember' conversation with Reid over alleged staff mistreatment MORE (D-Nev.) has intervened in Senate talks over climate change legislation to avoid the kind of blowup with farm-state lawmakers that has slowed action in the House.

Reid has asked that Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinWisconsin lawmaker refuses to cut hair until sign-language bill passes Iowa’s Ernst will run for reelection in 2020 California primary threatens to change 2020 game for Dems MORE (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, receive invitations to climate change meetings hosted by Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list Climate debate comes full circle MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
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“He said, ‘I want you in these meetings,’ because of the impact on agriculture,” Harkin said of his conversation with Reid. “I wasn’t invited; now I am. Reid talked to me and then Boxer asked me to be there.

“Agriculture is going to have a seat at the table. We’re going to be a part of it.”

Across the Capitol, House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has threatened to mobilize as many as 45 votes against the climate bill because of concern about how the bill would affect farmers. Even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) staff announced a forthcoming deal this week and a floor vote on Friday, Peterson and others had yet to embrace the package at press time.

Senators from rural states are voicing similar concerns, warning that proposals favored by liberals from coastal states could put a heavy financial burden on farmers by increasing the cost of energy.

“Every farm-state senator is aware of what the cap-and-trade proposals could do to their agriculture base,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D), who represents Nebraska and sits on the Agriculture Committee.

“Agriculture is a big user of electricity,” he said. “There’s a recognition that when electricity costs go up it can add, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars in costs at a time when commodity prices are not what they were. So we have to be very concerned.”

Reid had said he would take up climate change after the Senate passed healthcare reform, setting a tentative date for debate this fall.

That schedule, however, may get pushed back a few weeks because of delays with healthcare legislation. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusOvernight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor Judge boots Green Party from Montana ballot in boost to Tester MORE (D-Mont.) had planned to mark up a package this week, but it is looking increasingly likely that will not happen until after the July 4 recess.

A Reid aide said climate change legislation would “likely be in the fall.”

Some senators think it will be very difficult for lawmakers from farm states and coal-dependent states to reach a compromise with coastal liberals in the House, led by Pelosi and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

“People are trying to remain open for negotiation,” said Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuLobbying world Former New Orleans mayor: It's not my 'intention' to run for president Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick MORE (D-La.), who represents a state with major oil and gas interests. “But I don’t really know how we ever reconcile where the House is and where the Senate is.”

Nevertheless, Democrats are gearing up for a Senate debate over climate change, spurred on by Pelosi’s intention to bring a package to her chamber for a vote before week’s end.

A group of Senate Democrats and Republicans met Tuesday to hear a presentation about the House climate bill from Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who has helped assemble the legislation.

The regional factions that have roiled the House bill have begun to emerge in the Senate.

“Those regional differences were readily apparent, in polite ways,” said Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyGOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report GOP senators: Trump should not declare border emergency during State of the Union MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), who attended Tuesday’s climate meeting, which Boxer hosted.

Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHarris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears MORE (D-Va.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHillicon Valley: House panel takes on election security | DOJ watchdog eyes employee texts | Senate Dems urge regulators to block T-Mobile, Sprint deal | 'Romance scams' cost victims 3M in 2018 Dems urge regulators to reject T-Mobile, Sprint merger Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (D-N.M.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Gillibrand uses Trump Jr. tweet to fundraise Trump: Bernie Sanders 'missed his time' for White House MORE (D-Minn.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (R-Ariz.) also attended the meeting. Warner was a special co-host.

But farm-state senators said they may be persuaded to support the legislation if certain concessions are made to rural states.

Reid, it seems, has taken a lesson from House leaders, who failed to appease rural lawmakers.

Peterson and other farm-state Democrats have insisted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), instead of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), be given authority to judge whether certain farming practices qualify as carbon offsets that could then be sold on the open market. Farmers and ranchers view the USDA as sympathetic to their interests and the EPA as antagonistic.

Peterson also wants House leaders to soften proposed regulations for coal-fueled power plants, which provide electricity for farmers, and to implement more favorable rules for ethanol, which is produced from corn.

Farm-state opposition could prove a bigger hurdle in the Senate, where rural lawmakers hold greater sway than in the House, a chamber dominated by lawmakers from populous coastal states.

Reid must also contend with lawmakers from manufacturing and coal-dependent states in the middle of the country who are leery of strict curbs on carbon emissions.

Rep. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump, Dems open drug price talks | FDA warns against infusing young people's blood | Facebook under scrutiny over health data | Harris says Medicare for all isn't socialism On The Money: Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive | Dems question IRS on new tax forms | Warren rolls out universal child care proposal | Illinois governor signs bill for minimum wage Michelle Obama would be tied with Biden as frontrunner if she ran in 2020, poll shows MORE (D-Ohio), who represents a state with a large manufacturing sector and has raised concerns about the legislation, said there are about a dozen Democrats who represent states with coal-dependent economies.

“They’re from coal-electricity states and manufacturing states,” he said.

Concern among lawmakers from states that rely on coal makes it all the more important for Democratic leaders to solidify support among farm-state lawmakers.



Jim Snyder contributed to this article.