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Congress Daily: Cantwell-Collins Duo Skeptical Of Trio
March 24, 2010

Posted by: David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov

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Congress Daily

Cantwell-Collins Duo Skeptical Of Trio

By: Darren Goode

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 4:30 PM

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While a trio of senators this week is still piecing together a potential deal on climate and energy that could begin to be drafted over the upcoming two-week spring break, one bipartisan Senate duo is not yet convinced and may siphon off much-needed support for that effort.

Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are still pushing for their alternative "cap-and-dividend" idea that would avoid setting up a new carbon trading market. They say their plan, which has been well-received by some energy experts, avoids the volatility and speculation that has skewed oil and other commodity markets, while including a direct refund for consumers based on revenue generated from charging businesses for emissions. It is also, they say, far simpler than the cap-and-trade plan the House passed last year.

"I think that the public is tired of 2,000-page-plus bills and wants a bill that is more straightforward in its approach," Collins told a gathering hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center today.

An evolving draft of a bill from Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I/D-Conn., would set up a cap-and-trade program for at least electric utilities -- and potentially manufacturers and others as well -- while levying a carbon tax on fuels. It is believed to take a couple of ideas from the "cap-and-dividend" bill by refunding some of the revenue back to consumers, as well as providing oversight to address concerns about volatility and speculation.

But, "I think that we probably still have a difference of opinion about creation of trading platforms," Cantwell told reporters.

"Rather than seeing parts of our bill cannibalized and put into another bill, I think that they should take a look at coming on to our legislation," Collins added. "I certainly will take a look at the bill that is produced, but I'm very happy with the approach that we've taken."

Collins also expressed concern about how parts of their approach, namely the consumer rebate, could work in a sector-by-sector system. "That is the big question," she said.

Cantwell and Collins have been holding their own briefings with fence-sitting senators -- and have the advantage so far of having an actual bill to showcase. "It's important to note that there still isn't a bill for us to look at," Collins said of the trio's efforts. "So it's very difficult to judge what's actually in Senator Kerry's bill when he has not yet produced an actual bill."

"I think it's changed 25 times over the last 25 days, so it's hard for us to answer," Cantwell added.

That could change soon. Kerry, Graham and Lieberman are continuing a series of meetings today to try to have details sent to EPA in the coming days for analysis, as well as to release and send to CBO a draft bill by the first week after the recess.

The three gave more than a dozen senators a progress report Tuesday, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is meeting today with chairs of key committees over a broader climate and energy strategy. Kerry is also meeting with freshman Democrats today.

Amy Harder contributed to this report.

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