Kerry, Graham, Lieberman release climate bill ‘framework’

KERRY, GRAHAM, LIEBERMAN RELEASE CLIMATE BILL ‘FRAMEWORK’…. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) released their “framework” for a climate change/energy independence bill at a Capitol Hill event this afternoon.

If you’ve been following this trip-partisan trio’s work on the issue, the available details of the framework will seem pretty familiar.

Among the details they did give:

— The three will propose a reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions “in the range” of 17 percent by 2020. That was equal to the reduction in a bill passed by the House over the summer, but less than Kerry and Sen. Barbara Boxer proposed in a Senate bill earlier this year.

— The three want to encourage offshore drilling for oil and gas, increase U.S. nuclear-power plants, and “ensure a future for coal.” That nod to fossil fuels and nuclear power could upset environmentalists, but they will be crucial to enticing Republicans and moderate Democrats from states with big energy businesses.

— The three support a “cap and trade” system, in which polluters will be able to buy and sell credits to emit greenhouse gases, under an overall national cap. But they do not support calling it that.

Apparently, “cap and trade” no longer polls well. The White House seems to now prefer “energy independence legislation.” These three senators are using the phrase “market-based approach.” (“You remember the artist formerly known as Prince?” Lieberman said. “This is the market-based system for punishing polluters previously known as ‘cap and trade.'”)

As for the politics of their effort, Lieberman added, “There are well over 60 votes that are in play.” That’s a diplomatic way of saying, “We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it.”

In addition to the press conference, Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman released a copy of a letter they sent to President Obama on their progress. “Support is building to simultaneously create jobs, protect our national security interests, and improve our environment,” the senators wrote.

And what was the point of all of this? It’s all about timing — David Roberts explained, “[T]he event was timed to have an impact in Copenhagen. Both Kerry and Lieberman said explicitly that their intent was to send a message to countries hashing out a climate treaty: the U.S. Senate is on the job. It’s making progress.”