Reid Says Gulf Spill Will Spur Climate Change Bill

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: Rather than jeopardizing Democrats plans for a comprehensive energy and climate change bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicted that the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico will actually spur lawmakers to act.

The legislation has appeared to be in jeopardy; the only Republican cosponsor in the Senate, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, dropped out of negotiations with Democrats over a dispute on when the legislation should be considered.

And President Obama had promised increased nuclear power development and offshore drilling in part to draw Republican support to climate change legislation.

With the Gulf spill, however, the President has put a pause on the offshore drilling proposal.

Today, Reid agreed with his decision.

“I think we're all going to back off from offshore drilling until we get a better handle of how we can make it safe,” said Reid.

But Reid still said he thinks it will be a catalyst to an energy and climate change bill, although perhaps one more focused on alternative energy.

“The question, for those of you who couldn't hear, is the -- what's happening in the Gulf, does that endanger energy legislation?”

“I think quite to the contrary,” said Reid. “I think it should spur it on. We have to -- we have to take care of this issue. I am amazed at how difficult it seems to be to get people interested in alternative energy. I was happy to see what Secretary Salazar did offshore (with wind turbines), up in the Massachusetts area . And that took seven years to get that done. Alternative energy is what we need to move to as rapidly as we can.”

The issue currently on the Senate floor is the Wall Street reform legislation, which Reid said he still hopes to pass by next week. Minority Leader McConnell said today he thinks that FinReg should be a “several weeks bill.”

Reid declined to take a firm stance on two of the most contentious issues yet to be resolved in the Wall Street reform bill.

One of the most contentious amendments that will be considered on that bill is a proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, who wants to open the Fed’s books to the public.

Reid wouldn’t endorse or oppose Sanders’ plan (offered along with Ron Paul) to audit the Federal Reserve. It’s a notion that has the Obama administration and moderate Republicans like New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg nervous.

“This is something, you go back and look at my record, quite a few years ago I tried to do a lot with the Federal Reserve,” said Reid. “I think they need a little more attention than they have gotten,” said Reid, adding that he hopes Sanders offers the amendment.

But will Reid support it?

“I only know the broad outlook. I've not looked at the amendment, but I'll be happy to take a positive look at that amendment,” he said.

Reid was also asked about Republican proposals to more directly include measures to deal with government sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the FinReg legislation.

“Those two entities now are in a state of, I guess, for lack of a better word, conservatorship. There's a lot of attention being focused on them already. And as I've said, if my Republican colleagues think that this in some way will strengthen the legislation, let them offer the amendment. I have no problem with that,” he said.

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