Boxer Lays Out Action On Climate Change

Thursday, July 2, 2009
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer has scheduled a four-pack of hearings in the next two weeks as part of a broader effort to draft climate legislation this summer and continue an ambitious Democratic push to get a plan through Congress this year.
Three administration officials -- Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, Energy Secretary Chu and EPA Administrator Jackson -- headline an overview hearing Tuesday.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the new head of the Republican Governors Association and a presumed 2012 presidential candidate, is the Republicans' invited witness on a second panel.
The presence of Barbour and the three administration officials highlight how polarized the committee is across party lines on the need for a bill mandating reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade program.
While there is little chance any minds will be changed at that hearing, the administration officials are expected to participate later that afternoon in one of Boxer's regular Tuesday climate change meetings that is bound to include some or all of about 16 on-the-fence Senate Democrats and perhaps some moderate Republicans.
Boxer is optimistic that at least one Republican senator will co-sponsor a cap-and-trade measure she wants to introduce this summer, an aide said.
While Sen.-elect Al Franken's victory over former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., this week theoretically gives Senate Democrats a filibuster-proof 60 votes, Democratic leaders in the climate debate are going to need the support of at least a couple of Republicans to reach that mark.
Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska will be particularly tough sells on a climate bill, which Senate Majority Leader Reid wants to merge with an energy plan Landrieu opposed that was recently approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Boxer this spring dispatched all panel Democrats to lead or co-lead various working groups tackling five key areas of a cap-and-trade bill to facilitate negotiations with moderates in both parties.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who had his seat on Boxer's committee taken away by Democratic leaders as punishment for campaigning for former GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has been the leading liaison in trying to get McCain on board.
Boxer and other senators plan to go to Alaska the last week in August - after Boxer hopes to mark up a bill in her panel but before it would reach the Senate floor -- at the invitation of Sen.Mark Begich, D-Alaska.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will welcome the senators but is not participating in the trip, her spokesman said. Begich and Murkowski are weighing the impact climate change has had on their state with Alaska's very prominent oil and gas industry.
Boxer is holding two more hearings July 14, one on the role agriculture and forestry can play in combating climate change and the other later that afternoon on the transportation sector.
A fourth hearing July 16 looks at how businesses can stay globally competitive while facing limits on their carbon emissions, with debate likely on what China is or is not doing to lower its carbon emissions.
Boxer has blocked out the last two weeks before the Senate leaves for the summer in August to mark up a bill, if possible.