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.