Senators Continue to Court Industry Support for Climate Bill

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) huddled with industry representatives for the second time in just over a week to curry support for the energy and climate package they’re putting together. Emerging from the meeting, both the interest groups and the senators hailed progress on getting to shaping a bill that’s as industry-friendly as possible.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Graham said they’re making progress on getting a bill that industry groups–like the Chamber of Commerce, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Nuclear Energy Institute, who participated in the meeting–can support. He reaffirmed his belief that their bill would be dramatically different than the House-passed bill. “Cap and trade is dead. It’s been beaten to death,” he said. “I think it’s an idea that needs to die.” (This despite the fact that, from what is known about their bill, it will include some level of a cap and trade program and look a lot like the House bill).

He also downplayed the bill’s (theoretically) core goal of addressing climate change as merely an ancillary benefit to everything else. “We’ve gone away from this massive, economy-wide cap and trade system that had as its goal keeping Iowa from becoming beach front property to a national energy strategy, sectorally designed, that will lead to energy independence and do the things on carbon to create jobs, not lose jobs,” he said. (Sorry, Iowa!)

“If it’s not perceived to be business friendly, a revolutionarily, dramatically different approach from the old system … then I’ve failed,” said Graham.

Lieberman was laudatory of their meetings with industry groups, calling them “extraordinary discussions.” But asked about threats from the left flank if the bill becomes too industry-friendly, he was dismissive. “In the end this will be one of those cases where everybody will be a little unhappy,” said Lieberman. “But if they’re mostly happy that we’ve done something constructive, it will pass.”

The groups present for Thursday’s meeting didn’t offer any new details, though they said they remain pleased with the direction the senators are taking the bill. “It was just a good exchange of information from each of the groups… an exchange back and forth with the senators,” said Bruce Josten, the head lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve had a bunch of provisions that we’ve been sharing with their staff,” said Marvin Fertel, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute. “They were very open-minded about that. We were very pleased with the discussions we’ve had with the staff.” He also expressed hope that nuclear power would be included in a “clean energy standard” in the bill, rather than an renewable electricity standard, an idea that Graham has endorsed.

It’s not clear yet when there will even be a bill. Graham said they expect to release a bill “within a couple of weeks after Easter break.” Lieberman said they expect to have it ready by the week of Earth Day, April 22. They offered few details on the bill, outside of what has already leaked from previous meetings.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest