Durbin: Senate is ‘Not Doing’ Energy Reform Before Recess

Posted July 21, 2010 at 3:25pm

The Senate may not have time to take up an energy and climate bill before recessing for the monthlong August break, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Wednesday.

“We’re not doing it before we leave in August,” the Illinois Democrat said, adding that the schedule is packed. The Senate is set to adjourn Aug. 6.

Durbin said he was unsure whether Democrats could muster the 60 votes necessary to close debate on a small-business lending bill and that the time needed to set up a vote on that measure could push consideration of the supplemental war spending bill to next week.

He added that the Senate also must confirm Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court before the recess, leaving the Senate little time to take up and debate an energy bill.

Senate Democrats have been divided over whether and how to bring up an energy or climate change bill this year, with some Members pushing for a measure that would institute a cap-and-trade style system for utilities and others saying they want to pursue a narrower agenda focused on oil spill liability and incentives for renewable energy.

In a sign of how the energy issue has fallen off Senate leaders’ radar in recent days, Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) told reporters Wednesday that the topic was not “discussed at all today at the [biweekly] chairman’s meeting. … We’re trying to figure out if we can do anything.”

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acknowledged that Democrats had yet to come to a consensus on how to deal with energy and climate issues, but the Nevada Democrat plans to have the 59-Member caucus discuss the issue at its regular Thursday policy lunch.

Despite Durbin’s concerns about the timing for an energy debate before recess, Reid still wants to try to bring some type of energy measure to the floor as soon as next week, according to one senior Senate Democratic aide.