Washington (CNN) - Two senators, one a former presidential nominee and the other a previous vice-presidential nominee, weighed in Wednesday on the nation’s current political environment – and their bill to stem global warming and create energy-related jobs.
Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut talked about these and other issues in a wide-ranging interview with CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.
The senators discussed their proposal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and setting energy policy for the 21st century during the interview that aired on CNN’s John King, USA.
Senior leaders in the Democratic and Republican parties told CNN that, while the sweeping energy and climate change bill is admirable, it’s unlikely to garner enough Senate votes to pass this year. Both senators told King they disagree.
“Well, we believe that as people see who is supporting this bill, the breadth of the support that it has, the urgency for shifting America's energy dependency, making America more secure, creating millions of jobs, you know, there's a compelling reason to do this bill that has nothing to do with politics,” Kerry said. “It strengthens America.”
The bill could ignite a political battle similar to the recent fight over health care. Given that possibility, some Democrats are skittish about being pulled into another fight that could cost the party valuable political capital ahead of the November midterm elections.
Lieberman directly addressed that concern, telling King, “I think, what we're going to argue, that this bill is the best thing members of Congress could pass that would actually create jobs here in America. I mean it not only stops the flow of dollars out of our country to … buy foreign oil, it stops the flow of new energy jobs out of America to places like China.”
“There's another clock ticking here besides the election,” Lieberman added. “And it's the clock that goes off on January 1 next year, when the Environmental Protection Agency has the power and has promised to begin to regulate greenhouse gas emissions - carbon pollution - by executive order.”
After discussing energy and the environment, both senators talked about the contentious political environment ahead of the midterm elections.
Kerry has endorsed Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania as he battles Rep. Joe Sestak in a Democratic primary that’s frequently been heated ahead of the May 18 primary. In an especially controversial ad released in April, Specter’s campaign questioned Sestak’s military record – alleging that the former three-star Navy admiral was “relieved of duty in the Navy for creating a poor command climate." That charge caused Sestak to accuse Specter of employing "swift boat" tactics.
Kerry, the target of what many called “swift boating” as the 2004 Democratic nominee, explained his support for Specter and his displeasure with hearing the oft-used political phrase.
“I vouched for Senator Specter's character, which was under attack,” Kerry said. “I didn't think I … started getting involved in the race directly. In fact, I very specifically said I do not want to be the arbiter of ‘swift boating’ in America. And my crew and I would love it if that term were given back the honor and the appropriate place that it deserves. It is not a political term, it's an experience - and a meaningful one.”
Lieberman, Al Gore’s Democratic running mate in the 2000 campaign, also weighed in on the current political mood.
“What I see going on is a lot of people in our country who are anxious about our future, particularly economically, who are angry that people in Washington seem to spend most of their time in irrelevant partisan political fights,” said Lieberman, who ran and won as an Independent for his Senate seat in 2006 after losing the Connecticut’s Democratic primary.
Lieberman added, “I think the net effect of that is that every incumbent in either party up for election this year is anxious now. … And in the Republican Party, they see the Tea Party coming on with real energy and - and force and are worried about what change that portends for the party.”
“So ... the way I put it is, the established political order in America is under attack by people who are dissatisfied with the way people in office have handled their lives and their country,” he said.