Floor debate on the energy and climate change legislation will begin in the Senate “sometime in the spring,” according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Following a meeting with Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and other Democratic senators last week, Reid said the Democrats are looking for ways to craft a bipartisan climate protection bill that will attract more than 60 votes.

“We are continuing to work to bring a bill to the Senate floor as soon as possible,” Reid said. “The proposals we are discussing will create millions of jobs, lower energy bills and reduce dependence on foreign oil imports. They will also invest significantly in 21st-century clean energy technologies to make America more competitive. I am optimistic about our progress and look forward to more productive meetings to move this effort forward in the near future.”

There were indications the revitalized legislation next year might be promoted more as a jobs bill, touting the new jobs to be created through incentives for upgrading the nation’s energy base, including alternative energy.

On another front a small bipartisan group of Senate moderates is considering putting forward legislation that would place cap-and-trade restrictions only on power plants, according to a story Wednesday in the New York Times. Talks are in the early stages and no bill has been drafted, the story said. A move in that direction could cut down on opposition from refiners, manufacturers and Republicans. It also possibly could gain support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been opposed to the sweeping measures developed in the House and Senate so far.

Earlier this month Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted out climate change legislation (S. 1733) without any amendments following a boycott of the markup by Republican senators (see NGI, Nov. 9). Eleven Democrats voted to report the bill out of committee, but Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) dissented, citing several concerns with the measure. None of the Republican members of the committee were present for the roll call vote.

The bill, co-sponsored by Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), cleared the committee with no amendments. While no Republican members were needed to vote the bill out of committee, the bill could not be amended without some Republican attendance at markup.

Boxer has said that Reid will combine the committee’s bill with other pieces of energy legislation and has committed to doing a complete economic analysis of that final bill. During hearings at Boxer’s committee last month, Republicans pressed for more detailed analysis of the complex cap-and-trade legislation from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sens. Kerry, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) have said they will work together to craft legislation that could clear the Senate. Last month Kerry and Graham outlined a framework for reaching bipartisan agreement on comprehensive climate change legislation in the Senate, which would include provisions on promoting nuclear generation and expanding oil and natural gas development (see NGI, Oct. 19).

Referring to the Boxer bill, Graham has said “there are simply not the votes to pass this bill through the Senate.” If the measure comes to the Senate floor, “I would vote ‘no,'” he said.

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