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Democrats Say They Don’t Have Votes for Comprehensive Energy Bill

After meeting with White House Director of Energy Policy Carol Browner, Senate Democrats held a news conference Thursday where Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he will attempt to move pieces of a comprehensive energy legislation instead of a complete bill prior to the August recess.

Reid said he abandoned the broader attempt at this time because “they have no single Republican willing to work with them and he needs 60 votes.” But he also said this in no way replaces broader climate legislation.

There are a number of Democrats from coal-producing states who are also uncomfortable with any discussion of restricting carbon emissions to utilities, a provision that was under discussion as part of the bill.

The significantly scaled-back legislation addresses oil spill provisions, land and water conservation and vehicle fuel efficiency. Reid said he is committed to moving this legislation “as soon as possible, whenever that turns out to be.” Joined at the news conference by Sen. John Kerry, a longtime advocate of climate change legislation, said he watched the late Sen. Ted Kennedy for more than 26 years fight to pass health care. “It won’t take that long,” Kerry said.

Former Vice President Al Gore, an outspoken proponent of government action to address climate change was not happy with the news.

“I continue to urge the president to provide leadership on this issue and urge the Senate to make this issue a priority for the remainder of this Congress,” Gore said in a statement.

“Ultimately — and sooner rather than later — these issues simply must be dealt with. Our national security, our economic recovery and the future of the United States of America — and indeed the future of human civilization on this Earth — depends on our country taking leadership. And that, in turn, depends on the United States Senate acting,” Gore said.

Browner acknowledged her disappointment at not being able to get agreement on comprehensive legislation but said the White House will push for the smaller package to pass before the end of this work period as time is running out.

The Senate is set to recess for the summer on Aug. 9.

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