US climate bill in peril as Democrats delay action

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate yesterday  dealt a potentially fatal blow to President Barack Obama’s push  to curb greenhouse gas emissions, postponing its bid to pass  broad legislation to combat climate change.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he plans to bring up  a narrower energy bill next week that would revamp offshore oil  drilling rules in the wake of the BP oil spill.

But he will put off consideration of broader legislation  sought by Obama until September at the earliest.

The delay means that Obama’s fellow Democrats, who control  Congress, have little time to advance the complex legislation  amid intense political pressure in the weeks before November  congressional elections.

It also could derail global climate change initiatives, as  the world’s major economies and greenhouse gas emitters insist  the United States play a leading role.

“Unfortunately at this time we don’t have a single  Republican on board,” Reid told reporters.

Democrats said they hope to pass the scaled-back bill  before leaving town for an August congressional recess.

Some Democrats aimed to attach climate legislation to that  bill with the hope of attracting Republican support.

But Reid said he could not get any Republicans to back a  comprehensive energy bill that would include provisions  intended to combat climate change such as caps on carbon  emissions or mandates for power companies to generate more  alternative energy.

“We will fight that out in September,” said a Democratic  senator who did not wish to be quoted by name. “It will be  tough to win.”

Republicans have been near unanimous in their opposition to  climate change legislation, saying the bill would be little  more than an energy tax that would imperil an economy  struggling to recover from recession.

Obama has made action on climate change a priority and the  House of Representatives approved a wide-ranging bill last  year. But lawmakers and environmentalists are increasingly  doubtful a comprehensive bill can pass the Senate this year.

If Republicans make gains in November’s elections, the  effort could be stalled for some time.

Environmentalists said the decision to delay action on the  broad climate legislation represented a serious setback.

“It would seem like the longest of long shots to me because  the window for opportunity in the fall before the election  season goes into high gear is very small,” said Frank  O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an activist group.

Democrats need at least some Republican support to advance  legislation in the Senate since they control 59 seats, one  short of the 60 needed to overcome procedural hurdles.

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