Democrats send climate bill to Senate floor despite boycott

The US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a global climate change bill by an 11-1 vote despite a boycott by Republican members.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 5 -- The US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a global climate change bill by an 11-1 vote despite a boycott by Republican members. Max Baucus (Mont.) cast the single no vote.

Republicans on the committee immediately protested. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) said he was disappointed that Barbara Boxer (Calif.), the committee’s chairwoman, and other Democrats on the committee “reported another 1,000-page bill without a full understanding of what it will cost.” He and other Republicans have argued that a US Environmental Protection Agency analysis of S. 1733’s costs was inadequate.

Boxer, who cosponsored the bill with Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), disagreed. “We found, after questioning EPA extensively, that the Republicans’ demand for another EPA analysis now would be duplicative and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Boxer said following the vote.

The absence of the committee’s Republicans during an EPA presentation, which Boxer arranged for them Nov. 3, showed that their criticism was not substantive, she said. “Indeed, EPA said their economic analysis was ‘unprecedented’ in scope and was never done for any other energy or climate bill at this stage of the process,” she said.

Boxer said the bill addressed a critical issue, and advancing it was a necessary step in getting the 60 votes necessary for the Senate to create comprehensive legislation “melded together from various committees and senators from different regions of the country.” Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Lindsay O. Graham (R-SC), Kerry, and others are working on that bigger bill already, she said.

Nation’s best interest
Committee and Senate rules also let measures proceed if the majority decides that it’s in the nation’s best interest to act, Boxer said. “A majority of the committee believes that S. 1733, and the efforts that will be built upon it, will move us away from foreign oil imports that cost Americans $1 billion a day,” she said, adding, “It will protect our children from pollution, create millions of clean energy jobs, and stimulate billions of dollars of private investment.”

Alexander, who also chairs the Senate Republican Conference, said, “Republicans want and expect to participate in any bill about clean energy, but taxpayers expect us to know what this bill costs before we start voting on it. The American people need to know what this legislation will cost them in utility bills, jobs, their taxpayer dollars, gas prices and how much it will actually help the environment.”

American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said the vote should mark the end not only of the Kerry-Boxer bill, but also HR 2454, the bill cosponsored by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) that the House passed by 6 votes on June 6.

“The only bipartisanship evident today was opposition to this approach,” Gerard noted, adding, “Congress now has the opportunity to develop a meaningful, bipartisan energy and climate policy that addresses the challenges at hand without holding back our nation’s economic recovery.”

Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, said, “While the members of this committee who voted to advance this legislation may attempt to downplay their vote to increase energy costs for American families, seniors, and small businesses as an inside-the-beltway procedural motion, the fact remains that job-killing, carbon regulating legislation has cleared a major hurtle and is a major step closer to becoming law.”

Pyle said, “The winners today are rent-seeking corporations, Washington special interests, and our global competitors, especially China. The timing of this vote—which will weaken America’s ability to compete in the global economy—is particularly ironic, given that just yesterday, a US global warming envoy official told Congress that ‘No country holds the fate of the Earth in its hands more than China.’”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

More in Government