UPDATE: Senate Committee passes climate and clean-energy bill despite Republican boycott

Authors: Megan Emiko Scott Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, despite an attempt by Republicans on the committee to derail the process. Ten Democrats, including Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, and Senator Bernie Sanders (an Independent) signed off on the bill. The bill was reported out of Committee without support from any Republicans, who have been boycotting the mark-up process since Tuesday. The Republicans claimed that they need more analysis on the bill from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Congressional Budget Office. Yet the EPA has already provided extensive analysis on the bill, and these Republicans didn't show up for a Q&A session with an EPA representative David McIntosh yesterday. Additional EPA analysis would have stalled the legislative process for as many as 5 weeks, which would have made it impossible to get the bill out of committee in time for the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, which begin December 7th. Without credible steps towards a comprehensive solution to global warming, the U.S. will have little leverage in these negotiations to encourage other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Passing the bill immediately, even if it meant doing so without Republican participation, showed Senator Boxer's commitment to passing climate legislation and positioning the U.S. as leaders in Copenhagen. The bill passed by the committee includes Green For All's provisions: the Green Construction Careers Demonstration Project and funding for the Green Jobs Act. These two provisions will broaden opportunity and expand access for all in the clean-energy economy. But the Committee did not consider any amendments to the bill, because Senate committee rules state that at least two members of the minority party must be present for a mark-up to continue. 

This means that an important amendment that can create up to 1 million jobs by requiring electric utilities to invest in energy-efficiency did not yet make in into the bill. The EPW Democrat's move to pass the bill follows yesterday’s announcement by Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman that they would work with the White House to craft a new bipartisan bill. Their bill may use the EPW Committee bill as a framework, but it is also likely to include provisions that support offshore drilling and nuclear power, as well as elements of the American Clean Energy and Leadership Act passed earlier this year by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The new bill will attempt to do what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is already tasked to do—create a climate and clean-energy bill that can get 60 votes by the time it reaches the Senate floor.

 Other Senate Committees with jurisdiction (Finance, Agriculture, Commerce, and Foreign Relations) will also have a chance to weigh in on the bill. As this process continues to move forward, there will be opportunities to advocate forgreen job creation and training andmaximized investment in energy efficiency. Stay tuned!

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