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Climate Change

Kerry: There’s a Narrow Window For GOP Cooperation on Pricing Pollution

10:04 AM EST on November 4, 2009

The chief sponsor of the Senate climate change bill acknowledged today that there is a narrow window for Republican cooperation on the legislation, thanks to GOP resistance to its central goal -- putting a price on CO2 emissions.

2549087853_62635f6261.jpgSen. John Kerry (D-MA), at right, with climate bill co-author Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (Photo: NWF via Flickr)

"If there's a pricing of carbon ... there are some people that just aren't going to come along," Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) told attendees at a National Journal energy policy event. "I don't think there's an enormous universe [of Republicans open to the bill], but it's enough to get us over the top."

Kerry's remarks came as his co-author on the climate bill, Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), continues to contend with a GOP walkout of her panel's first meeting on the measure.

Kerry and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are slated to meet with senior Obama administration advisers today to discuss the framework for a bipartisan climate deal that the duo first unveiled in a New York Times op-ed last month. Kerry, Graham, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) also plan to tout the potential for a pro-business climate deal at a press conference this afternoon.

Kerry said today that the White House is "very much" open to the general principles of that op-ed, which include a strengthening of the climate bill's investment in nuclear power and expanded offshore drilling for oil and gas. "Nuclear is part of the solution," he added.

But even as Kerry and Boxer seek to make peace with resistant Senate Republicans, touting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's announcement yesterday of its (cautious) support for the Kerry-Graham framework, the prospects for political movement from the minority remain unclear.

Speaking to the Capitol newspaper Roll Call, Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), the environment panel's senior Republican, charged Boxer with "destroying the integrity of the committee system" and suggested that his members had little will to show up for today's second day of climate meetings.

The Senate climate bill contains significant investments in clean transportation, including billions in annual transit and sustainable development grants. Inhofe was careful to distinguish his clash with Boxer on climate from his close ties with her on infrastructure:

Whenasked if the spat would hurt their efforts to pass a new transportationbill, Inhofe said “no.” “I don’t think so. We’re on the same side onthat. ... You guys [in the press] don’t believe it, but we have a goodrelationship.”

GOP senators considered less conservative than Inhofe have been equally uncertain about the prospects for a climate compromise. Lisa Murkowski (AK), the energy committee's senior Republican, told National Journal attendees that "the closer to the election you get, the more political this issue will be," but she added that passage of a climate bill would be necessary before Election Day 2010 only "if it's [a] good [bill]."

Adding more subsidies for nuclear development is a high priority, Murkowski said, as is re-opening the incendiary debate over drilling in her state's Arctic National Wildlfe Refuge. "It's time to be talking about what we have up north," she stated.

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