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Is There Still Time Left For An Energy Bill?

Via The Hill, a research note from FBR Capital sums up everything you need to know about where the energy-bill talks stand: "Senate scheduled to debate something next week." Yup, something. No one knows what will be in the bill yet. Reid is scheduled to meet with the Democratic caucus on Thursday; Kerry and Lieberman are asking for an extension so that they can try to salvage a utility-only cap; and it's likely that the whole debate could get pushed back until after August recess.

The biggest danger, at this point, is that Republicans will run out the clock on energy legislation. This, after all, is one of the under-appreciated points about the filibuster. It doesn't just allow the minority to block bills; it also makes day-to-day Senate business absurdly inefficient. Every cloture vote takes two days, so the GOP has been forcing them for all sorts of minor procedural moves—just to chew up time. Plus, as Ezra Klein observes, Republicans are taking 30 hours of post-cloture debate today, not because they need to, but just because it leaves even less time for the majority to pass legislation. And on top of all that, the intra-Democratic squabbling over the energy bill is eating up even more time.

Yesterday, George Voinovich (R-Ohio) told reporters: "Anybody that's being intellectually honest has got to say we do not have the time to do anything meaningful at this point in time when it comes to climate change." That's not literally true. There's plenty of time left. Months, in fact. Senators could skip the August recess, take their jobs seriously, and get to work addressing perhaps the biggest issue facing the country (and planet). Republicans could stop senselessly filibustering every little Senate procedure. The clock may be winding down, yes, but that's not because of some abstract celestial force. It's not a logical necessity. It's a conscious choice that individual senators are making.

(Flickr photo credit: Cuba Gallery)