Under budget reconciliation rules, Democrats could move cap and trade at any point during the legislative calendar under the expedited process that requires only 51 Senate votes. If they take this route, however, the program may not end up looking like its authors intended. The “Byrd Rule,” for one, allows the Senate parliamentarian to strip out any provision that has no budget impact. For something as big as cap and trade, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has said the final product may end up looking like “Swiss cheese.”
Democrats for now appear willing to work on cap and trade through regular order, starting with a markup by Memorial Day in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. House floor action and a Senate bill are expected to follow this summer, with advocates optimistic they can win over some GOP support along the way. If not, reconciliation would return as an option.
“We may have a year or more to work through all this,” said Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), a member of the “Gang of 16,” a group of moderate Democrats from the Midwest, Rust Belt and West who figure to play a pivotal role in how a cap-and-trade bill is constructed.
“I’d hope the Republicans would have a seat at the table,” Pryor added. “I’d hope they’d be there in good faith. At some point, if they’re just going to tear things apart and not build anything, you’ve got to move on. Certainly, I think it’ll be a better bill if you have a lot of Republican involvement.”
It is still unclear how much the budget resolution that Congress writes will actually reflect Obama’s blueprint and any of his proposed specifics for a cap-and-trade plan. The White House spending plan released last month suggested specific emission targets for 2020 and 2050, a 100 percent auction of emission credits and assumed revenue of at least $650 billion over a decade that could be used for research, development and deployment on new low-carbon energy technologies, as well as tax rebates.
House Budget Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.) has said he is open to including language establishing a reserve fund for revenue from a cap-and-trade program. Indeed, Senate Democrats did the same thing two years ago in anticipation of a floor debate over a bill from Boxer and Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.).
Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), an opponent of climate language in a reconciliation bill, conceded last week that Democrats would not be out of step in leaving room for cap and trade. “They can do that with a reserve fund, and that’s the traditional way we’ve done it around here,” Gregg said.
But there is plenty of opposition on Capitol Hill — even among Democrats — to getting into any level of specifics on climate change when the fiscal 2010 budget document starts to move.
March 23, 2009
Budget “reconciliation” one of the topics discussed.