Updated: June 7, 5:18 p.m.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reiterated Monday his call to produce an energy bill this year, making his case as Members were filing back into town after a weeklong Memorial Day recess.
“Though we may not get to it this short work period, the Senate must take action to hold companies like BP more accountable for disasters like the one that’s poisoning our waters and shores more and more every day,” the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor.
Reid has kicked up his rhetoric on energy reform in recent weeks, using the Deepwater Horizon oil explosion off the Gulf Coast as his main argument to tackle the issue that — despite the push — is unlikely to see floor action thanks in large part to the midterm elections.
“This spill underscores our need for new energy policy,” Reid said. “We need to confront and limit the risk of future catastrophes. We cannot wait until after more tragedies and disasters happen.”
Senate Democrats have been unsuccessful in bringing energy legislation to the floor this session and were dealt a heavy blow recently when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) left bipartisan negotiations with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.). Reid will meet with relevant committee chairmen Tuesday to discuss climate change, and he is expected to bring the issue up to the entire Democratic Conference next week.
The Senate is also scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. The resolution has 41 co-sponsors and needs 51 votes to pass.
Reid also detailed an ambitious legislative schedule for the summer, which begins with passing a sweeping tax extenders package that was tangled in bicameral negotiations before the recess. The $113 million package will likely include tax benefits for the middle class and unemployment benefits. Reid said he also wants to include funding for Medicaid in the larger package.
“The work period between now and July 4 is short, but our to-do list is very long,” Reid warned of the four-week stretch ahead.
The Nevada Democrat, who is up for re-election and spent the Memorial Day recess barnstorming his home state, also wants the Senate to take up campaign finance legislation and a small-business lending measure. He noted both chambers have to work out conference agreements on the war supplemental and financial regulatory reform, the latter of which Reid said could be sent to the White House for signature by the end of the month.