WASHINGTON — Backed by a giant American flag and rows of young veterans and business executives, a group of Democratic senators unveiled an energy and climate bill Wednesday that they say will increase jobs and cut the billions spent on foreign oil.
The bill's framework is similar to one that squeaked through the House of Representatives in June. It would require reductions of heat-trapping gases, set up protections from higher energy prices for consumers and energy-intensive industries, and provide investment and incentives for clean energy.
It also would increase support for the continued use of coal but with the emissions greatly reduced, and for nuclear energy and natural gas. Those provisions are intended to win over many senators who are ambivalent or who oppose climate legislation.
Supporters face an uphill fight getting enough votes to clear the Senate's 60-vote requirement. Their opening move stressed that the new Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act puts American economic and security interests first.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"We know clean energy is the ticket to strong economic growth," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who cited a recent University of California study that found that the House version of the bill would create 1.9 million jobs and increase household income.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the main author of the legislation, said a transition to cleaner energy would reduce the billions of dollars spent on foreign oil, some of which ends up supporting terrorists.
"Our security and our economy will both be strengthened, and we cannot afford not to act," Kerry said.
Republican leaders said the measure was the equivalent of a new tax.
"The last thing American families need right now is to be hit with a new energy tax every time they flip on a light switch or fill up their car, but that's exactly what this bill would do," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement Wednesday.