Eyeing Democratic Majority, Senators Rethink Climate Strategy

By:  Dean Scott

Aug. 10 — Hillary Clinton is surging not only in national polls but also in key swing states—and that is good news for a bloc of Senate Democrats who hope to put climate change back on the front burner and fill a vacuum of leadership triggered by the departure of once-towering Senate figures on the global warming issue.

Control of the Senate was already up for grabs, given Republicans who now hold a 54–46 majority must defend 24 seats; Democrats are defending only 10. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, has opened a post-convention lead of as many as eight points in national polls, but more crucial to Senate Democrats is leading in multiple swing states they need to capture Senate control.

There is no single strategy at this point for how a Democratic-controlled Senate would pursue climate change bills in the 115th Congress. But it is already under discussion, according to Bloomberg BNA interviews with more than a half-dozen Democrats, each of whom have been staking out areas of expertise for a future legislative push. Some favor initially taking an incremental approach—say, improving energy efficiency or focusing on super climate pollutants—and building on those successes before pushing more comprehensive legislation, such as a cap-and-trade approach or a tax on the carbon content of fuel.

“The question is, do you want to take some preliminary steps right off the bat that bring a few Republicans on board?” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who is pushing a bill to cut certain super climate pollutants such as hydrofluorocarbons. “Or do you want to go headlong into a fight over pricing carbon” with little chance of passage anytime soon, he said.

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