Climate Change Bill Heads for Vote, But GOP Opposition Could Prevail
June 06, 2008
Senate Republicans on Friday blocked a global warming bill that would have required major reductions in greenhouse gases, pushing debate over the world's biggest environmental concern to next year for a new Congress and president.
Democratic leaders fell a dozen votes short of getting the 60 needed to end a Republican filibuster on the measure and bring the bill up for a vote, prompting Majority Leader Harry Reid to pull the legislation from consideration.
The Senate debate focused on bitter disagreement over the expected economic costs of putting a price on carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas that comes from burning fossil fuels.
Opponents said it would lead to higher energy costs.
The 48-36 vote fell short of a majority, but Democrats produced letters from six senators — including both presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — saying they would have voted for the measure had they been there.
"It's just the beginning for us," proclaimed Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a chief sponsor of the bill, noting that 54 senators had expressed support of the legislation, although that's still short of what would be needed to overcome concerted GOP opposition.
"It's clear a majority of Congress wants to act," Boxer said at a news conference.
She and other Democrats said this now lays the groundwork for action on climate change next year with a new Congress and a new president that will be more hospitable to mandatory greenhouse gas reductions.
Both Obama and McCain have called for capping carbon dioxide and other emissions linked to climate change. President Bush has opposed such measures and said he would have vetoed the Senate bill if he had received it.
The bill would have capped carbon dioxide coming from power plants, refineries and factories, with a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 71 percent by mid-century.
"It's a huge tax increase," argued Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a prominent coal-producing state. He maintained that the proposed system of allowing widespread trading of carbon emissions allowances would produce "the largest restructuring of the American economy since the New Deal."
Supporters of the bill accused Republicans of muddying the water with misinformation.
"There is no tax increase," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., one of the bill's chief sponsors said. She said the emissions trading system would provide tax relief to help people pay energy prices. And supporters disputed that it would substantially increase gasoline prices.
[THIS IS A BOLD-FACED LIE BY A U.S. SENATOR WHO IS SWORN TO UPHOLD AND PROTECT THE U.S. CONSTITUTION.]
Four Democrats joined most Republicans in essentially killing the bill.
Obama and McCain, as well as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who is recovering from cancer surgery, were absent, although they each sent a letter supporting the bill.
After Verbal Fire, Senate Effectively Kills Climate Change Bill
By David M. HERSZENHORN
New York Times
June 7, 2008
WASHINGTON — Before the anticlimactic demise on Friday of legislation to combat global warming, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, called climate change “the most important issue facing the world today.” Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, a critic of the bill, nonetheless called it “the most significant piece of legislation to ever come out of the Environment and Public Works Committee.”
Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, said the effort to limit heat-trapping gases was “one of the greatest challenges of our generation.” Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in a statement, “The future of our planet is at stake.”
[DISCERNING READERS WILL NOTE THAT THIS IS 'AL GORE LANGUAGE'. AFTER ALL, AL GORE IS ADVISING BARACK OBAMA'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN...].
And even Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, the leading opponent of the legislation, called it “probably the largest bill ever considered by the Senate in its impact on the economy and our way of life.”
And so it was, with a chorus of Senate voices having proclaimed the urgency and importance of the issue that the Great Climate Change Debate of 2008 ended on Friday morning, after three and a half days, with a procedural vote that effectively shelved the bill until next year. A motion by Democrats to end debate and move to a final vote, requiring 60 votes to succeed, fell far short, with 48 senators in favor and 36 against.
The bill would cap the production of heat-trapping gases and force polluters to buy permits to emit carbon dioxide. Critics, including many Republican senators, said it would raise energy prices, including the cost of oil, at a time when Americans are struggling with record gasoline prices.
But there were also critics at the other end of the political spectrum who said the bill’s limits on carbon emissions were not strict enough. They said the legislation would allow some industries to prosper while forcing average Americans to pay higher energy prices.
The result left lawmakers pointing fingers at one another. Democrats said Republicans had obstructed their efforts to address a most crucial issue, while Republicans said the Democrats were never serious about passing the bill, as evidenced by their unwillingness to allow a serious and lengthy debate over amendments.
Environmental groups, meanwhile, were left struggling to read the tea leaves of yet another procedural step by the Senate, which has been called the world’s greatest deliberative body but can also be its most mercurial and maddening.
In a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, mocked the Democrats as trumpeting the magnitude of the climate change but then seeking to cut off debate and move swiftly to a final vote.
“What are they afraid of?” Mr. McConnell asked. “Why don’t they want to consider amendments to a bill addressing what they call ‘the most important issue facing the world today?’ If it is the most important issue facing the world today, it certainly deserves a lot longer debate than a few days.”
[THIS IS AN EXCELLENT QUESTION. WHAT ARE THEY AFRAID OF?? TELLING THE TRUTH??? WHY DO THEY SEEK TO DENY AMERICANS THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL DUE PROCESS RIGHT TO KNOW??]
Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, echoed Mr. McConnell’s remarks at her daily briefing.
The Democrats insisted that comments by Mr. McConnell and other Republicans were disingenuous because Republicans never intended to allow an open and honest debate, never intended to allow the bill to come to a final vote, never intended to support it regardless of what amendments were made, and had no intention of pressuring President Bush, who had made clear that he would not sign the bill.
“They do not want to address the most important issue of the day, so they stalled,” Mr. Reid said, noting that Republicans insisted on having the entire nearly 500-page bill read aloud on Wednesday. “They are doing everything they can to maintain the status quo.”
Some lawmakers and experts on the national debate on climate said there was merit in bringing the bill to the Senate floor for what amounted to a trial run, drawing out supporters and opponents and their particular concerns.
“We have a road map as to where our colleagues are,” said Mrs. Boxer, who was a main sponsor of the bill with Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut. “We will give the road map to the next president so he knows where our colleagues are and where are the consensus areas and where are the difficult areas.”
But even after the vote, it was hard to discern where many lawmakers stood, with 10 Democrats among the 48 senators who voted to close debate saying they would have opposed the bill had it come to a final vote.
Climate bill meets disappointing end
Dallas Morning News
June 8, 2008
For a moment, the climate appeared to be changing in the U.S. Senate.
Last week's decision to bring landmark global warming legislation to the Senate floor signified the start of a long overdue discussion about the most important environmental and energy issues facing this country. And while the bill faced long odds from the get-go – and a likely presidential veto – this was an opening to begin tackling tough questions and to establish a baseline for future dialogue.
Unfortunately, opponents weren't satisfied with simply voting the bill down. They viewed this as an opportunity to avenge past political defeats and impede debate.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky forced Democrats to have all 492 pages of the legislation read aloud – a nearly nine-hour ordeal that he said was prompted by residual anger over judicial nominations. On Friday, filibuster was the Republicans' weapon of choice, as they effectively killed the bill before a scheduled vote.
These obstructionist tactics were unnecessary political ploys that only served to further delay urgently needed action on climate change. Much to our disappointment, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison joined Republican colleagues in thwarting the vote.
For both parties, this was a missed opportunity.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and putting a price on carbon will be a difficult and complex process. Whether Congress chooses to begin what inevitably will be a long negotiation now or next year, it's not going to get any easier.
Scientific evidence, though, makes clear that lawmakers can't afford to dally with nine-hour dramatic readings while the planet warms. Opponents of the bill passed up the chance for a serious debate that should include a full airing of their concerns about the proposal's economic impact.
[SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE TO DATE ONLY DEMONSTRATES A CORRELATIVE, NOT A CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GLOBAL WARMING AND ECONOMIC ACTIVITY - POLITICIANS ARE EXPLOITING PUBLIC IGNORANCE OF THIS KEY DISTINCTION.]
Sadly, just advancing the bill to the Senate floor was progress. But moral victories will not move the country closer to shedding its distinction as a global warming laggard.
[IT IS SOMETIMES BETTER TO DO NOTHING THAN TO DO HARM. IN THIS CASE, THE PROPOSED BOXER-SUPPORTED CLIMATE CHANGE CAP & TRADE LEGISLATION WOULD HAVE SEVERELY HARMED THE U.S. ECONOMY AND ADVERSELY AFFECTED AMERICANS' STANDARD OF LIVING. THE DEFEAT OF THIS BILL IS NOT ONLY A MORAL VICTORY, IT IS ALSO A VICTORY OF: 1) COMMON SENSE OVER 'FEAR-MONGERING & POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM; and 2) INDIVIDUALISM OVER COMMUNALISM.]