White House seeks to thread the needle on energy with Tuesday meeting

Senate Democrats discussed the same issue at a policy lunch on Thursday, but there was no agreement on policy and some critical members of the caucus — including ones with dissenting voices — were absent. 

Democrats such as Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (W.Va.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Jim Webb (Va.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) did not attend. Nelson, for one, admitted he was not a key committee player in the debate and that his staunch opposition to a market-based carbon control policy was widely noted.
But Reid and Senate Democrats pushing alternative proposals to price carbon emissions said the meeting showed that the majority of the caucus is on board with at least the concept of holding polluters accountable.

"It says that the majority of the Senate Democratic caucus wants to enact strong comprehensive energy independence legislation that's based on a 'polluter pays' limit on pollution," Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said. "But it's clearly not unanimous."
Lieberman — who is pushing a three-sector carbon pricing and energy production plan with Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryRomney earns rants and raves for secret Twitter name Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate John Kerry calls out lack of climate questions at debate MORE (D-Mass.) — and others backing the plan say that the term “polluter pays” doesn’t necessarily apply to their concept of pricing carbon emissions.

Democrats have acknowledged their effort to pass a broad energy and climate plan this year is dead without help from the other party.
Centrist Republicans have rallied behind a bill from Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) that avoids pricing carbon in lieu of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and foreign oil dependency through other means, like fuel efficiency and renewable fuels production.

"I think there's a lot of support for the Lugar bill," Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) said. "I'm looking at it very carefully." LeMieux — who will attend Tuesday’s meeting with Obama — also noted a bill from Dorgan, Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP braces for impeachment brawl McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows GOP senator: 'Inappropriate' to discuss opponents, but impeachment a 'mistake' MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocrats introduce SWAMP Act to ban meetings with foreign leaders at Trump properties Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick MORE (D-Ore.) promoting development of plug-in electric vehicles.
Dorgan has been pushing Reid to bring up an energy bill passed last year by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee instead of the larger Kerry-Lieberman plan.
"It would be a failure if we end this session of Congress not having taken up or addressed the issues that we spent 10 or 12 weeks marking up in the energy committee with bipartisan consensus," Dorgan said.
"Building on something along the lines of what came out of the energy committee is probably more doable at this date on the calendar with all the other controversial issues left to be dealt with," Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) added. "There was a strategic decision made early on to go with health care before climate and energy. And ... whichever issue went second was going to have a difficult time being addressed in a comprehensive way."
But liberal Democrats are threatening to revolt if Reid brings up just an energy plan.

"I think a lot of us aren't going to settle for an energy-only bill," Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallPoll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down MORE (D-Colo.) said.

Another option is to limit a carbon-pricing plan only to electric utilities. But there has been some bipartisan concern raised about that idea as well.
"How do you define utility-only, how do you deal with the revenues, how do you deal with the sector impacts?" Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump has had a rough October Senate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' Democrats vow to push for repeal of other Trump rules after loss on power plant rollback MORE (D-Md.) said. "There's a lot of questions that are raised with that."
He said an alternative carbon-pricing plan from Sens. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Overnight Energy: Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest| Democrats inch closer to issuing subpoenas for Interior, EPA records| Trump's plan to boost ethanol miffs corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Trump administration issues plan to reverse limits on logging in Tongass National Forest MORE (D-Wash.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R-Maine) that avoids setting up a massive new carbon market could be something to build upon.
"You're better off having a comprehensive bill that takes a pretty simplistic approach," Cardin said. Cantwell and Collins “take a very straight-forward approach — there's not really specific provisions in her bill and I think that's an advantage, quite frankly."