Senate Delays Climate Bill to Focus on Health Care

WASHINGTON, DC, November 21, 2009 (ENS) – Senator Harry Reid, the Democrat majority leader, has put off Senate debate on climate change legislation until next spring, weakening hopes for a strong international climate change agreement in Copenhagen in December.

“We are going to try to do that sometime in the spring,” he said.

Instead, Reid introduced a health care bill to the Senate on Wednesday in an effort to cut skyrocketing costs and cover millions of uninsured Americans. The health care legislation is a key part of President Barack Obama’s agenda and

In a rare Saturday session, the Senate yesterday voted 60-39 to proceed to debate and amend the health care bill when Congress returns from its week-long holiday break.

With just a few weeks left to pass health care reform before the congressional session ends, and a fierce battle looming over whether or not the bill should include a public option to compete with private health insurance, the work needed to pass health care reform this year has pushed the climate change legislation off until 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)

The House passed its version of healthcare reform earlier this month.

But now the climate change bill, also controversial, is likely to be debated in the midst of a mid-term election year, possibly making it harder to gather the votes the Senate needs to pass the bill.

The House climate change bill approved in June, calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by 2050.

The bill approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sets a target for a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020.

Both bills would create a mandatory cap-and-trade market in carbon dioxide allowances whereby the government would set the total level of allowable emissions and then allocate quotas to companies.

Firms that emit more than their quotas could buy allocations from those that have allowances to spare.

The Senate’s move to shelve climate change comes the same week President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao had revived hopes of reaching a binding agreement in Copenhagen.

Following their meeting in Beijing Tuesday, Obama said he hopes that an agreement in Copenhagen can “rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge.”

“Our aim there, in support of what Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark is trying to achieve, is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect,” Obama said.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.