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Volume 87 Issue 45 | p. 13 | News of The Week
Issue Date: November 9, 2009

Climate-Change Maneuvers

Legislation: Democrats push ahead as Republicans boycott markup meetings
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Climate Change
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: climate change, Senate
Boxer (right) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) discuss the climate bill during a streamlined Senate markup last week.
Credit: Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom
8745NOTW_climate
 
Boxer (right) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) discuss the climate bill during a streamlined Senate markup last week.
Credit: Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom

Democrats on the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee passed a 950-page climate-change bill late last week without a single Republican vote and without a single amendment. Only two Republicans attended the week's three committee meetings to discuss and "mark up" the legislation (S. 1733); that is, put the bill into final form. Their visits were brief, and they came solo.

The committee vote was 11 to 1 with the lone "no" vote coming from Sen. Max S. Baucus (D-Mont.), who said he could not support the bill without amendments. Other Democrats noted similar concerns but said their objections were overcome by the need to move the bill.

"We need a beginning; we need a start," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said in voting to pass the bill. "We want to make sure new wind-turbine plants are built in Minnesota, not in Denmark, and that the next car battery plants are in Youngstown, Ohio, not in Shanghai."

Like Baucus, Klobuchar discussed amendments she wished to add but could not, including several affecting chemical companies and other manufacturers facing high-energy needs and intense international competition.

The decision to move the bill to the Senate floor without amendments and without committee action was a compromise Democrats engineered in hopes of moving the bill while avoiding a procedural mess.

The committee has historically not taken legislative action unless at least two minority party members are in attendance, committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) noted. Like emissaries from an enemy camp, Republican Sens. George V. Voinovich (Ohio) and James M. Inhofe (Okla.) appeared singly and briefly during the week to explain why their party was missing. They read statements, took a couple of questions, and left.

The Republicans, they said, were refusing to participate in the bill's markup unless the Democrats halted the markup and waited for an EPA cost analysis of the bill. Weeks ago, however, EPA had provided the committee with a cost analysis based on the House of Representatives-passed climate bill, along with a 38-page addendum reflecting the Senate bill's provisions.

An EPA official attended the markup, explaining that another analysis would take five weeks, cost $135,000, and be nearly identical to the material already provided. Such modeling, said EPA's David McIntosh, does not provide "fine-grain details" sought by the Republicans, who did not attend his presentation. Several of the likely amendments would greatly change the bill's cost anyway, he added.

The amendments will now be either added on the Senate floor or included in a bill that will be melded together by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Boxer said. Reid has agreed to have EPA analyze such a melded bill, she added.

Reid's role in climate-change legislation is growing: He is now charged with putting together the output of at least five other committees with jurisdiction over portions of climate-change legislation. Democrats on Boxer's committee intended to propose some 80 amendments, whose fate is now left to Reid.

 
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