Date registered: Jul 2007
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Cap and Trade bills dies for now
Dems yank global warming bill
Apparently three days of debate was enough for what many senators called "the most important issue facing the planet."
With little chance of winning passage of a sweeping 500-page global warming bill, the Senate Democratic leadership is planning to yank the legislation after failing to achieve the 60-vote threshold needed to move the bill to the next stage. After a 48-36 vote on the climate change bill, the Senate is likely to move on to a separate energy debate next week.
The legislation collapsed for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the poor timing of debating a bill predicted to increase energy costs while much of the country is focused on $4-a-gallon gas. On top of that, a number of industrial-state Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio were uncomfortable with the strong emissions caps that would have created a new regime of regulations for coal, auto and other manufacturing industries. Republicans, for the most part, held firm against a bill they said would cost billions in regulations while pushing the cost of gas higher. Seven Republicans, mostly moderates, voted for the procedural motion on the legislation while four Democrats voted against it.
Democrats did not go into the debate expecting passage of the legislation, but they did celebrate a marginal increase in support for the cap-and-trade system for emissions that was the centerpiece of the bill. Similar legislation in previous years did not even come close to getting 50 votes in the Senate, so Friday morning's vote was a moral victory of sorts. Several senators who missed the vote, including Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), would have voted for the bill, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said on the Senate floor this morning, meaning the legislation had the support of a majority of the Senate.
The debate in many ways was about setting the stage for a more serious climate change effort under the next president. While President Bush would have vetoed any cap-and-trade bill this year, both McCain and Obama back some form of mandatory emissions reduction, so this debate will gain serious traction again next year.
"We're getting ready for the next president of the United States, who we know ... will be hospitable to this bill," Boxer said.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), one of the co-sponsors of the legislation, said the Senate had 54 votes of support counting the absent senators, "moving in on 60," and warned that opponents will be "on the wrong side of history."
Yet Republican opponents saw a Democratic majority that wasn't ready to fully debate the bill and endorse the long-term costs of the new regime of environmental regulations.
"The message is clear: The majority can’t abandon this bill fast enough," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "On the one hand, the majority says climate change is the most important issue facing the planet. Yet they’ve rushed the debate on that topic and brought the bill to a premature end. They brought it down before we could vote on gas prices, on clean-energy technology, or on protecting American jobs."
Brown, a liberal freshman senator whose home state of Ohio has been particularly hard hit by manufacturing job loss, seemed almost apologetic for voting against the bill. He called global warming "the moral question of our time" and said he supported a cap-and-trade system. But Brown said he feared that the cap-and-trade system as written would allow the United States to "export emissions" rather than reducing them because foreign countries without tough pollution standards would take the U.S. jobs eliminated under a cap-and-trade mandate.
The other Democrats who voted against the bill were Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, all of whom have significant industrial or mining industries in their home states.
UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is trying to make political hay out of the issue, saying that "Bush-McCain Republicans" blocked the global warming bill. But McCain issued a statement read on the Senate floor that he would have supported the procedural motion had he been present.
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