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 KerryThe Memo: Biden faces balancing act Budowsky: Trump October surprise could devastate GOP Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers 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 AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline Trump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal MORE (R-Tenn.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Merkley, Sanders introduce bill limiting corporate facial recognition 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 UdallThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Democratic presidential race comes into sharp focus Democrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump 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 CardinCongress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Senate passes extension of application deadline for PPP small-business loans 1,700 troops will support Trump 'Salute to America' celebrations July 4: Pentagon 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 CantwellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mike Roman says 3M on track to deliver 2 billion respirators globally and 1 billion in US by end of year; US, Pfizer agree to 100M doses of COVID-19 vaccine that will be free to Americans Overnight Energy: Supreme Court reinstates fast-track pipeline permit except for Keystone XL | Judge declines to reverse Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget MORE (D-Wash.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus New polls show tight races for Graham, McConnell 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."