WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Joe Lieberman riled Democrats last year
by criticizing then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Now the
Connecticut independent is helping the president push for a bill to
combat global warming.
Lieberman's fingerprints have been on every major climate change
bill ever considered by the U.S. Senate, and despite his
differences with his former party, he is a regular at the weekly
meetings of a dozen Democratic senators working to get a bill in
shape by the end of September.
It's the first time in his 20-year Senate career that he is not
a member of the key panel drafting the legislation. He lost his
seat on the environment committee when he supported GOP
presidential candidate John McCain, a move many view as a
punishment for campaigning against the Democrats.
"My goal is exactly the same as it's been, but my role is
different," said Lieberman in an interview with The Associated
Press in his Washington office. "My goal is to help pass a law
that will enable the United States to reduce the threat of global
warming, and incidentally, make America energy independent, because
the two now go together."
Perhaps no one knows more than Lieberman how tough it will be.
None of the five global warming bills he has introduced or signed
onto since 1998 has been successful.
The template for the Senate this year passed the House in late
June by the slimmest of margins. Although Lieberman acknowledges
that it would reduce global warming, wean the country off foreign
oil and boost the economy with clean-energy jobs, he doesn't
support it. Neither do many Republicans, or all Democrats.
So, as Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and John
Kerry of Massachusetts lead the effort, Lieberman is busy on the
sidelines drumming up support for measures - such as boosting the
commitment to nuclear energy - that he says are necessary to
improve the bill's chances.
"I assume as I start my work on this that 60 Democrats will not
vote for this bill, and therefore we got to get a core group of
Republicans," said Lieberman, who has counted McCain and then-Sen.
Barack Obama as co-sponsors on previous bills. "And I think we
Last year, despite both presidential candidates supporting
action on global warming and Democrats in charge of Congress,
Lieberman watched his fifth try at getting a climate change bill
fail. The bill fell a dozen votes short of the 60 needed to
overcome a Republican filibuster.
That legislation, like its predecessors in 2003, 2005 and 2007,
would have limited heat-trapping gases the same way as the House
bill currently under consideration. Its centerpiece was a
"cap-and-trade" system where companies would have pollution
allowances that they could sell if they went below emissions
limits, or buy if they could not meet the requirements.
Lieberman still thinks that cap-and-trade is the best way to
control global warming emissions. He also says it would raise the
money needed to make "revolutionary investments" in cleaner forms
of energy, and to "ameliorate some of the pain associated with an
enormous societal change" in how Americans power their homes,
vehicles and businesses.
"That's the thing I like most and why I feel comfortable
operating in the context of the House bill," he said.
This year, however, Lieberman says the odds for passage "are
better than even" - thanks to a president who is behind the bill,
the House passing global warming legislation for the first time and
a looming December deadline for international talks on a new treaty
to reduce heat-trapping gases.
The science, he said, also has gotten more compelling since he
wrote his first global warming bill more than a decade ago. "Every
year the problem gets worse, the threat of real damage gets worse,
even catastrophic damage," said Lieberman, sounding like his 2000
presidential running mate, Vice President Al Gore, who went on to
win a Nobel Prize for his work on global warming.
On the Net Sen. Joe Lieberman: http://www.lieberman.senate.gov