August 31, 2010 / 7:56 PM / in 7 years

Reid hopeful for GOP energy votes after elections

* Energy bill uphill struggle despite oil spill

* Reid holds out hope on renewable electricity mandate

* Cap and trade not likely

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Aug 31 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he hoped to pick up Republican votes for a pared-down energy bill after the midterm congressional elections.

“Maybe after the elections we can get some more Republicans to help us on these issues,” Reid, a Democrat, told reporters in a teleconference on Tuesday.

But passing any major legislation this year will be an uphill struggle. With Republicans eyeing gains in Nov. 2 elections, Democrats may face fierce campaign opposition on all major initiatives.

The modest energy bill that Reid introduced in late July sought to reform oil drilling after the massive BP Plc (BP.L) crude oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. It also included incentives for energy efficiency in homes and alternative vehicles fueled by natural gas and electricity.

Reid said at the time that there were no Republican votes for climate measures such as a cap-and-trade market on greenhouse gases or a renewable electricity standard, which would require utilities to generate minimum levels of power from sources such as wind turbines and solar cells. The bill would require 60 votes to pass.

Still, Reid was hopeful some Republican senators may have more freedom to vote for the bill after the elections in which they may regain control.

“We are bound to come back on a lame duck and we are going to continue working on it,” he said about the bill. “We will see if we can come up with something before the end of the year.”

After the Senate returns from recess on Sept. 13, it will have four weeks before breaking again for the elections. During that time energy will vie with other big-ticket items such as military funding and tax policy.

Adding a Renewable Energy Standard back to the bill could help bring some Republican support the bill.

Reid said he had two Republican senators who would be willing to consider voting for a bill that had a RES in it.

Within the next week he will set a time to speak to those senators, Reid said. He did not say how many Republican or Democratic senators could be lost by adding a RES to the legislation.

There was little chance cap-and-trade would make it back into the bill, however. “It doesn’t appear so at this stage,” Reid said.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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