National Journal: Murkowski: Reid Is Playing Politics

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is frustrated with what she views as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's political posturing. Speaking to NationalJournal.com Tuesday evening at the Capitol, the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee took sides with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in his ongoing dispute with Reid, who faces a tough re-election fight in Nevada, over whether immigration reform should be tabled this year so a climate bill can move forward. "I think Senator Graham is right to be more than just a little bit irritated about what has happened with the process," Murkowski said.

Murkowski also expressed her support for moving forward with an energy bill that her committee approved last year, but warned that if Democrats try amending that bill to include cap-and-trade -- an idea that Reid and others have floated -- "it sinks the ship." Edited excerpts of the interview follow.

NJ. What is your take on the stalled negotiations between John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, in light of Graham's threats to walk away?

Murkowski: If I had put the time and energy and political capital that these three had into a measure, and to be told literally hours before they are ready to roll this out that "Sorry, we're not going to go ahead with climate change, we're going to do immigration" -- when, so far as I know, there really is no immigration bill out there....
I'm going to actually meet with Senator [Charles] Schumer so that he can tell me what he thinks the parameters of his plan are. But the way that this was handled, I think, was an affront to the work that was done by Senators Graham, Kerry and Lieberman, whether you support the direction they were taking or not. I think they were perhaps led down the path by Senator Reid, and then when things got hot in Nevada, when the president is getting pressured to do something on immigration, it's just turned on a dime, and we're going to now do something else. I think Senator Graham is right to be more than just a little bit irritated about what has happened with the process.

NJ. Some people are pushing the Senate to bring to the floor the energy-only bill that the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved last year. Do you think there's going to be more momentum for that?

Murkowski: I would hope so. I have been saying for months, ever since last June, that it is a good bill. It's not everything that I want; there are some things in it I would rather not be in it, but it went through a fair committee process, three months of markups, over 100 amendments, and we got a bipartisan bill moved out of the committee. I think that could put us as a country on a good path towards greater energy independence. There's good, strong measures in it for efficiency and conservation. I think it's good legislation. So I would encourage and endorse an energy-only bill going forward.

NJ. Do you think it could be brought to the floor and an amendment that includes a price on greenhouse gas emissions could be added on to it?

Murkowski: I think if you try to do any form of a cap-and-trade provision on an energy bill, it sinks the ship.

NJ. That's what the Kerry-Graham Lieberman bill was.

Murkowski: Yeah.

NJ. So even with Graham on board, you don't see it going forward?

Murkowski: I don't believe that you have sufficient support in the Senate for a cap-and-trade proposal. What the three of them were trying to cobble together, as I understand it -- they said, 'Well, this isn't cap-and-trade," but -- and again, I never saw the language, so it's difficult for me to speculate what it may have been, but the descriptions as I understand it were still cap-and-trade. If you're putting a price on the carbon and you're figuring out where the allocations are going in that market, then it's a cap-and-trade.

NJ. But you have been supportive of some type of price on carbon, correct?

Murkowski: I have in prior Congresses signed onto legislation that did have a collar -- a safety valve on it -- the Bingaman-Specter bill -- some time ago. And I have looked at these measures that are out there. Again, the devil is always going to be in the details. But I don't think if you were to take any iteration of a cap-and-trade proposal that we have seen thus far and you were to attach it by amendment to the energy bill, I don't think that you would have support in the Senate to pass that amendment.

NJ. What about the Cantwell-Collins "cap-and-dividend" bill?

Murkowski: I think Senator [Susan] Collins and Senator [Maria] Cantwell share the same concerns that I have about this whole trading concept, and that's why they've moved to the dividend. I think that their proposal has some issues with it, but we've been studying it, just as we've been looking at all of the other alternatives that are out there. Is it good to have this debate? Absolutely. We should be. But I don't think that we should be prematurely rushing to the floor with a proposal that is not quite ready. When you look at what is in the energy bill, there's good stuff for Republicans and Democrats, people from the North and the South, in this bill. And I think that could pass in the Senate.

NJ. Could you support Cantwell-Collins?

Murkowski: We have looked at their legislation, and I have had long talks, actually, with Senator Cantwell when she was initially drafting this. There are some issues that I have with how it operates, how they have structured it. But it is a proposal that I think is worthy of consideration as we talk about what the options are out on the table.
NJ. Do you think more Republicans could support that over something like Kerry-Graham-Lieberman?

Murkowski: I don't know.

NJ. What's your chief issue with Cantwell-Collins?

Murkowski: The big problem that we have is how they have structured the dividend disposition.... We've got a dividend that is distributed as a consequence of our oil revenues coming out of Alaska, so we've got experience with how a dividend program could actually operate. So I kind of speak from experience when I say you can really get yourself into some issues if you don't structure this carefully. But I'm not committing to any of them. We're looking at a carbon tax. Why would we not want to review everything that is out there within these possibilities?

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Source: By Amy Harder. Originally published April 29, 2010