GOP Senators Talk of Boycotting Climate Bill
Republicans for the most part plan to stay away from a meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday as the panel begins deliberations over legislation that would cap greenhouse gases from power and industrial plants and curb the use of fossil fuels.
Democrats have a 12-7 majority in the committee and enough votes to advance the measure to the full Senate. But GOP members are demanding additional studies on the cost and job impact of the bill, arguing that an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency was inadequate. The EPA study projected it would cost average households no more than $111 a year.
On Monday, the ranking Republicans on five other committees that will have some say in climate legislation also called the EPA analysis unsatisfactory and said senators should not be expected to vote on a bill "without a full and complete analysis of the likely effects."
The Republicans warned in a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the environment committee chairman, that failure to accommodate GOP senators seeking further studies "would severely damage rather than help" the chances of getting the bipartisan support needed to get a bill through the Senate.
Boxer called the EPA cost study "unprecedented in scope" and said it didn't matter that it was largely based on an analysis of the House-passed climate bill because "our bill is 90 percent the same."
Boxer told reporters late Monday she wants to try to accommodate the Republicans, but insisted she will push ahead with plans to begin voting on amendments to the bill. But when those votes will start was unclear. Boxer said Tuesday would be limited to senators' remarks, and said she will make officials from the EPA available so Republicans can quiz them about their cost study.
"We think this is going the extra mile for our friends on the other side," Boxer told reporters. "We want to move the process forward."
The Democratic bill calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and industrial facilities 20 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by mid-century. Polluters would be given pollution permits that they could trade among themselves to ease the economic effect of the transition from fossil fuels.
Republicans have argued the bill amounts to a huge energy tax because energy, including electricity, from fossil fuels will become more expensive.
Democrats privately called the GOP tactic largely an attempt to delay consideration of climate legislation and said all seven of the committee's Republicans already had made clear that they have no intention of voting for the bill.
While Boxer said she hoped the Republicans would change their minds and participate, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., another committee member, wasn't as kind at a news conference.
"It's almost like schoolchildren over there," said Lautenberg, referring to the GOP boycott.