A major hurdle for potential climate change legislation has been cleared: comprehensive health care legislation has passed the House and will soon become law. While the battle to ensure that more Americans will have access to affordable health care has no direct impact on climate change, the battle over the details of the bill has consumed the attention of Congress and America for more than a year now. With the health care debate essentially over for this session, Congress may be free to take on other reforms – specifically that of climate change. Recognizing this opportunity to act, Democratic Senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid asking for climate change legislation in 2010. The letter was signed by 22 Democrats, including important swing votes like Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Roland Burris of Illinois, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Al Franken of Minnesota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jon Tester of Montana, and Mark Warner of Virginia. Climate change legislation passed in the House last year, but legislation in the Senate has been stalled ever since. Currently, the best hope for legislation may come from Sens. Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman, who are drafting legislation that may achieve bipartisan support. It is widely believed that in order to pass a bill of this nature through the Senate, a super-majority of 60 will be necessary. The advantages of comprehensive climate change legislation are many. Well constructed legislation would:
- Reduce carbon emissions according to science-based targets;
- Provide clarity for US businesses and promote investment in clean technologies;
- Create new ‘green jobs’ and help the US maintain competitiveness in an increasingly green global economy;
- Remove the need for the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant – a particularly contentious issue for some;
- Establish the US as a leader in the clean energy future;
- Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.
Hope remains high that Congress will pass climate change legislation, and the future looks a little brighter now that health care legislation has passed. It will be interesting to see how these next few weeks pan out, because if Democrats are serious about passing a bill in 2010 then they are going to have to refocus their efforts very soon. If the fight to save our climate is anything like the fight to reform our health care, then we are in store for another interesting battle in Washington.