Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today said the Senate may not act on comprehensive energy and climate change legislation until next year, given the chamber’s busy fall schedule.

This E&E News PM (subs. req’d) piece is mostly a “Dog Bites Man” story — especially with the key qualifier “may” — isn’t really news to anybody who’s been paying attention or reading this blog:

I’d say right now it’s about 50-50 we get a vote this year, and as readers know, I don’t think it matters too much.  There’s gonna be a Senate vote on a climate bill — that is clear from Obama’s decision to speak at U.N. special session on global warming (and Todd Stern’s testimony). Even Inhofe knows that.  We get one bite at this man apple, so the key is to work hard and pick the best time to pass the damn thing.

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That said, I’d say the ideal time for a vote might be the first week in December, right before the international conference at Copenhagen.  That’s when maximum attention and pressure can be brought to bear on this historical vote.  But I do expect Copenhagen to 1) not have a final deal but 2) to move the negotiations forward, so  having the debate and vote in January can also work.

I do think this vindicates my original recommendation back in January that “Obama needs to pass in 2009 the mother of all energy bills” and then pass a climate bill in early 2010.  But now I think it is much too late to split the bills, as much as some members might like that.  Nor does it appear that is Reid’s preference:

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Speaking to reporters about the possibility of taking up the bill this fall, Reid said the Senate must first finish work on health care and regulatory reform.

“So, you know, we are going to have a busy, busy time the rest of this year,” Reid said. “And, of course, nothing terminates at the end of this year. We still have next year to complete things if we have to.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged the current focus on health care but said he is hopeful climate will remain part of the packed agenda this year. Asked whether he and Reid are discussing the climate and energy bill amid the current health care push, Durbin said, “It’s all health care, all the time. I shouldn’t say all the time, because we have a list of about a dozen things we have to do, and that is one of the elements that we want to finish before the end of the year.”

Reid also downplayed but did not rule out the possibility that Democrats could decide to move the energy piece separately from the climate change portion.

“That was an initial discussion that we had many, many months ago,” Reid said. “We’ve focused on what the House has done, and that is do it all in one package. But we have — that’s a bridge that’s still a long ways away.”

The House has passed a climate bill with shrinking emissions caps, and that’s what the Senate needs to do in order for there to be a global deal and have a serious chance of  averting catastrophe.

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