That Washington

Sen. Cantwell to Meet with Obama Wednesday

By Josh Feit June 21, 2010

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is one of at least four Democratic senators who will brief President Obama on Wednesday morning about climate change legislation.  Her proposal, called the Clear Act, is one of the main proposals in play in the Senate.

In his BP speech last week, Obama said their needed to be a "national mission" to find alternative energy sources. However, as the NYT noted on its editorial page this morning,  Obama didn't call for swift action on the House's climate change bill, which the Senate is currently considering. As the NYT also noted, a troupe of senators is meeting with the president on Wednesday to sell him on the idea.

Cantwell, who chairs the Energy Subcommittee of Senate Energy and Natural Resources, is one of three senators who briefed Democratic caucus members last week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) picked Cantwell to be part of the lobbying team that will sit down with the president.

Asked what Cantwell would tell the president, Cantwell's office told PubliCola this morning:
Her message for the President will be the same one she’s been delivering to her Senate colleagues: the CLEAR Act offers a simple solution for climate legislation—weighing in at 39 pages compared to 1,500 pages or more for some of the other bills; it is the only Senate bill with Republican support (Susan Collins of Maine); it puts a predictable price on carbon, which we need to incentivize growth of clean-energy alternatives, but it keeps most Americans whole by paying dividends out of the funds raised in auctioning carbon shares; it steers clear of creating yet another speculative market that could create instability in the energy field—exactly the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve; it focuses ... that is, on producers and importers of coal and oil, not users.

You can find the details on Sen. Cantwell's CLEAR Act here, but the basic is this: As opposed to "cap & trade"—a system in which the government auctions off a limited number of carbon permits to fossil fuel producers, with the money going to the government (while polluters trade their permits in a separate carbon market), Cantwell's "cap & dividend" would use the money to give rebates to utility customers, whose bills will certainly go up under the auction system.

Cantwell, along with her Republican co-sponsor, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), wrote an editorial about their bill in Friday's Washington Post. Here's a video explanation from her office.


As we noted shortly after Sen. Cantwell first introduced her "Cap & Dividend" bill late last year, it got good press from The Economist, the smartest mag on anybody's coffee table. In addition to Sen. John Kerry's "cap & trade" bill, the NYT also gives Cantwell's bill a nod today. However, both Grist and Sightline take issue with specific aspects of the bill.

Joining Cantwell at the White House briefing are Sens. Kerry (D-MA), Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), and perhaps Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut).
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