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The Senate Climate Bill Drops Tomorrow. Then What?

It looks like Barbara Boxer and John Kerry will introduce their climate bill into the Senate on Wednesday. Dave Roberts has a great preview of what to expect. Boxer has said she's planning to model her proposal after the Waxman-Markey bill that elbowed its way through the House in June, albeit with a few tweaks: She wants, for example, to amp up the short-term emission targets, aiming for a 20 percent cut in CO2 emissions below 2005 levels by 2020, instead of the 17 percent cut Waxman-Markey calls for. (Boxer has pointed toward recent EIA data showing that the recession alone has left us 8.5 percent below 2005 levels as reason to clamp down—since, after all, we're already halfway there.)

As Dave points out, one big thing watch here is that, unlike in the House, where Henry Waxman's energy committee was the only committee to mark up the climate bill (with agriculture making a few last-minute snips and incisions), the Senate process is shaping up to be a lot more convoluted: In addition to Boxer's Environment and Public Works Committee, it's likely that Jeff Bingaman's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Blanche Lincoln's Agriculture Committee, and Max Baucus's Finance Committee will all want to take a whack at the piñata.

Of all those pit stops, Boxer's committee is far and away the most environmentally friendly. So it'll be interesting to see if she tries to kick off the debate by reporting out a very strong bill that has ambitious targets and goals, with the expectation that coal- and farm-state senators in Ag and Finance will weaken it somewhat, or if she tries preemptively to craft a bill that appeals to the conservative Democrats and Republicans, with the hopes that they won't try to wring too many further concessions out of the bill. (We saw a similar dynamic with the stimulus debate, where some liberals grumbled that Obama should have started with a higher opening bid, given that Senate moderates were bound to whittle it back a few notches.)

Update: The Washington Post has a leaked copy of an early draft of the bill. May not be exactly what drops tomorrow, but it should give a rough idea.