Dems Pursue Smaller Energy Bill


"If not now, when?"

President Obama and Senate Democrats have decided to press ahead in the next two weeks with a scaled-back energy bill that limits carbon pollution by power plantsóbut not other industriesóin an effort to salvage the legislation before midterm elections.

After months of gridlock, the White House and Democratic leaders concluded that the sweeping measure they once envisioned cannot pass, so they'll try to get what they can rather than pass nothing at all. The developing plan is intended to appeal to enough Republicans to overcome a filibuster but could disappoint liberals who argue that more needs to be done.

"If not now, when?" said Senator Harry M. Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, who plans to bring the compromise bill to the Senate floor the week of July 26. "We have to move to do something about our dependence on foreign oil. That's what this legislation is all about."

Mr. Reid also presented it as a way to further stimulate the economy, saying, "This as I've indicated is a huge jobs bill."

The strategy of pushing forward with a more limited bill acknowledges the complicated politics in the Senate and the short time on the clock with elections approaching.

While the House last year passed a measure capping the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change across the economy, the White House and its Senate allies will push only to limit those from electric utilities, which are responsible for about a third of the emissions produced by the U.S.

Such a measure would allow Obama to make a down payment on his larger goal.

Some Democratic senators worry that a so-called energy-only bill investing in alternative-energy development without any limits on carbon emissions would effectively give away the popular policy items necessary for any eventual deal.

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