The Touchy Politics of Energy Reform

The tri-partisan trio of Sens. John Kerry (D), Joe Lieberman (I), and Lindsey Graham (R) have been working to hammer out a compromise energy-reform bill that can earn at least one Republican vote, and, with nobody sure yet what will be in it, the politics of energy reform appear quite delicate.


CongressDaily's Darren Goode notes that a comment from unnamed administration sources touched off a mini-panic among the three senators, Graham especially:
So when a Fox News story Thursday cited "senior administration sources" as labeling and criticizing an expected carbon fee on the transportation sector as a Graham-sponsored 15-cent-per-gallon gas tax, the reaction from both Graham and the White House was swift.

"The administration is working with Sens. Kerry, Lieberman and Graham to move forward bipartisan, comprehensive energy and climate legislation that creates clean energy jobs and reduces our dependence on foreign oil," a White House statement said, adding, "The senators don't support a gas tax, and neither does the White House."

A statement from Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop said, "Sen. Graham does not support a gas tax. And the bill he is working on does not include a gas tax."

"Somebody got ahead of themselves here," Kerry said later that afternoon. "Everybody's on the same page. Everybody's cool."

Energy reform can affect both businesses and consumers in many ways, and if its various policies are phrased sloppily or pejoratively (e.g., "gas tax") they could set off alarm bells. Goode illustrates that a solid coalition of outside groups could potentially get on board with what Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham come up with--but that they still have unanswered questions, and the politics of energy reform are touchy as the senators' bill gets crafted. A lot will depend on the messaging.

The three senators will unveil their bill April 26. For a rundown of where things stand, see Goode's full story at CongressDaily.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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