Lieberman says health care debate sank energy bill

Associated Press / October 5, 2010

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CROMWELL, Conn. — Senator Joe Lieberman yesterday blamed the Senate’s failure to approve an energy bill capping greenhouse gases on midterm politics and exhaustion in Congress from efforts to pass health care legislation.

The Connecticut independent, who worked on the federal legislation, said the enormous effort to enact changes in the country’s health care system in March crowded out other priorities.

“Congress was suffering from what might be called post health care reform traumatic stress syndrome,’’ Lieberman said at a conference on energy policy organized by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.

Lieberman worked on the energy bill with Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. Despite the bipartisan effort, the approaching midterm elections brought criticism by Republicans and others that so-called cap-and-trade legislation restricting carbon emissions would increase taxes and kill jobs.

“My colleagues, for reasons I understand but was disappointed by, got risk averse,’’ Lieberman said.

President Obama had hoped to add the energy bill to his biggest legislative successes — the health care law and a banking and financial sector overhaul.

Senate Democrats pulled the bill in July, saying it lacked the votes needed to ensure passage.

Lieberman said after his talk that if Republicans win more seats in Congress in November, they may be under pressure to approve some type of energy legislation rather than continue their opposition.

“I think with an increasing number of Republicans in Congress comes increasing responsibility to deal with challenges we’ve got and to try to take advantage of opportunities,’’ he said.