Reid releases watered down energy bill, Obama says it’s a ‘first step’

Jon Ward Contributor
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday released a summary of the draft energy bill that Democrats hope to pass in the next week or so. You can read the full summary here.

It’s unclear whether Reid, a Nevada Democrat, will be able to get both the small business lending bill and the energy bill passed in time to turn to a vote on confirming Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan next week.

But the bill falls far short of what environmentalists and the climate lobby had at one time hoped for. Reid and President Obama were both at pains today to stress that the bill is only the beginning for them of working on energy and climate legislation.

“I want to emphasize it’s only the first step. And I intend to keep pushing for broader reform, including climate legislation,” Obama said Tuesday in the Rose Garden.

“This bill does not address every issue of importance to our nation’s energy challenges, and we have to continue to work to find bipartisan agreement on a comprehensive bill to help reduce pollution and deal with the very real threat that global warming poses,” Reid said. “But this is a good bill that deserves bipartisan support, and continues us along the path toward a clean energy future.”

Here is a brief summary of the main facets of the bill, from the intro to the summary:

The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act would ensure that BP pays to clean up its mess. Second, it would invest in Home Star, a bipartisan energy efficiency program that lowers consumers’ energy costs and create jobs. Third, it would protect the environment by investing in the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Fourth, it would reduce our dependence on oil by making investments in vehicles that run on electricity and natural gas. Finally, it would increase the amount that oil companies are required to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, had some complaints about the substance of the bill but focused his harshest criticism on Reid, saying he was not giving enough time to debate the bill and that the majority leader would not allow any Republican amendments to be offered.

“Last minute, written in secret, little debate, and no amendments on a bill that addresses a big issue. That sounds a lot like what happened at Christmas with the health care bill,” Alexander said.

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