John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Senior U.S. administration officials have indicated that if Congress does not pass comprehensive legislation providing for a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions they will press ahead unilaterally with proposals using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s existing authority under the Clean Air Act.

This is an attempt to gain political leverage after deep divisions within the Democratic Party appeared when 26 Democratic senators rebelled earlier this month and voted for an amendment to the budget resolution barring cap-and-trade being considered as part of the budget.

The Financial Times reported White House budget director Peter Orszag admitting attempts to push a cap-and-trade scheme through Congress using the expedited budget reconciliation process had failed.

But Orszag insisted cap-and-trade is “nowhere near dead.” Officials have been briefing lobby groups the administration will ratchet up the pressure by declaring it already has authority to regulate emissions through the Clean Air Act and the EPA, with an announcement coming as early as this week.