Senate Climate Bill in Search of a Few Good Leaders

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"What we're trying to do is get a Republican to help us."

The Senate climate and energy bill unveiled last week now resides in a no man's land without any clear consensus on who is responsible for collecting 60 votes.

"It's a good question: Who's in charge?" said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

For starters, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) makes the decisions when it comes to what proposals reach the floor and how much time they get once there. But he is leaving the heaviest lifting on the climate issue to Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), lead authors of the billthat would place a first-ever limit on greenhouse gases while also expanding domestic oil, gas and nuclear power production.

"I think it's in our hands, and our supporters, the people who stood with us and their members all over the country," Lieberman said yesterday. "We're just beginning that now."

Reid asserted his own authority yesterday when he outlined plans to meet the week of June 7 with Democratic committee leaders, followed by a larger gathering of the entire 59-member Democratic caucus. In those meetings, Reid said he hopes to get a better picture of whether to go with the Kerry-Lieberman bill or instead move toward an energy-only approach (S. 1462) approved last June by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Still, by waiting a month, Reid is also buying time for others to get engaged. The Senate's top Democrat has repeatedly blamed Republicans for not taking a more proactive role in the negotiations.

"What we're trying to do is get a Republican to help us," Reid said. "You know, without a Republican, I can't do much."

"The silence from the White House is deafening," said a former Clinton-era White House aide. "Clearly without a White House push there does not seem to be adequate political momentum."

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