November 5th, 2009
02:03 PM ET
12 years ago

Senate panel approves climate change bill despite GOP boycott

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A climate change billl co-authored by Sens. Boxer and Kerry was approved by a Senate committee Thursday despite a Republican boycott of the committee's hearings."]
Washington (CNN) - A Senate committee Thursday approved a major climate change bill despite a boycott by all of the panel's seven Republican members.

Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-1 to send the measure to the full chamber. Because of the Republican boycott of the committee hearing that began Tuesday, the panel was unable to amend the bill.

Committee rules require at least two minority party members to be present to conduct regular business, including amending bills before it. However, an exception allowed the committee to vote on the overall bill as long as a majority of its members were present.

The committee's Republicans were demanding a full Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the bill's economic impact before committee debate. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the panel's ranking Republican and an outspoken opponent of the climate change legislation, warned that Democrats would imperil future work by the committee if they passed the bill on their

An EPA analysis would take several weeks, and Democrats considered the Republican demand a stall tactic.

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, the committee chairman, noted this week the panel has held dozens of hearings on the issue and compiled more than 300,000 pages of analysis, and that she had taken the unprecedented step of scheduling a session with EPA experts to answer any questions by committee members. However, the Republicans skipped the EPA briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

Boxer also said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has promised the full EPA analysis sought by Republicans on the climate change bill that eventually comes before the entire Senate.

"The absence of the Republicans during the EPA's presentation was a clear message that their criticism of the EPA analysis was not a substantive one," Boxer said in a statement Thursday. "Indeed, the 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."

The bill would set a cap on greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and create a system of tradable pollution credits to ease the economic impact on polluters. The House has passed a similar measure, but the full Senate does not plan to take up the issue until next year.

Leading senators including Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut announced Wednesday they were spearheading negotiations on a compromise Senate plan that could win enough support to overcome any filibuster attempt. Kerry co-authored the measure passed Thursday by the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Republicans contend the Democratic climate change bill would harm the U.S. economy by raising energy costs and giving other nations a competitive advantage.

Democrats say reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the nation's dependence on fossil fuels such as oil and coal is necessary and strategic as the world moves toward clean and renewable energy sources.

President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders wanted congressional action on climate change bills ahead of upcoming U.N. climate change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark to signal an increased U.S. commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.N. talks in December, intended to agree on a new global climate change treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, have been hindered by disputes between industrial powers including the United States and emerging and developing economies including China over specific targets for emissions reductions.

Since taking office in January, Obama has signaled a new U.S. commitment to working with the international community on climate change after eight years of intransigence under the Bush administration. The United States and China are the world's two largest greenhouse gas emitters, with the U.S. per capita figure is by far the world's largest.

In July, Obama joined the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia in pledging to work for a 50 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with developed countries cutting their emissions by an aggregate 80 percent or more to help meet that goal.

Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the lone Democrat to vote against the climate change bill in Thursday's committee meeting, said he opposed its interim target of a 20 percent reduction in emissions by 2020. Baucus said he wants to reduce the target to 17 percent to avoid undue economic hardship from the bill.

The House bill passed earlier this year has a 17 percent target for 2020.

Updated: 7:03 p.m.

Filed under: Energy • Senate
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Meh

    It's amazing to me that the GOP is for anything destructive, such as blowing up cities in Iraq, but they will fight tooth and nail against anything CONstructive, such as healthcare reform and climate change bills.
    What gives?
    Are you all really that miserable?

    November 5, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  2. amy

    GET THESE PEOPLE OUT OF POWER!!! Immature Republicans giving the silent treatment and stupid Democrats threatening our economy even more! FIRE THEM ALL!!!!!!

    November 5, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  3. Pee Wee

    Awesome! A former stockbroker and a lawyer heading the committee to kill our manufacturing base by setting energy policy. I think GE is going to make some big money here. Wait, doesn't GE own MSNBC? Maybe that's why the news they give is a bit skewed toward what this administration and Congress wants to do.

    Hey, if they can make those CFL bulbs, have Rachel Maddow tell the lemmings that mercury filled lights are GOOD for you, and give Obama, Boxer and Kerry some "donations" for passing legislation to MANDATE what kind of light bulbs MUST be used when we move to the SMART GRID, maybe they'll get a nice return on their investment.

    Same old Washington game, different players. Change you can believe in?

    November 5, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. Black Viper

    Amazing GOP and their supporters. They all on mission to destroy america unless they purify their party with maniac psycopath uneducated teabaggers.
    Give them few more months until gas price rose to $4.00 a gallon and they will come back on the news and cry Drill Baby Drill.

    November 5, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. Bob Pacific Grove, Ca

    Its about time the Democrats called the Republican's childish bluff........If Republicans don't want to come to the table (literally) to discuss important issues such as climate change, their constituents should elect representatives who do.....

    November 5, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    Good. This was the GOP volunteering not to participate in an important decision decision-making process...not in any way, shape or form was it the Dems railroading them. The dems were left holding the ball and did what needed doing, i.e., made a decision. You may not like the decision, but you don't get to complain if you voluntarily forswore your role in it being made. If you don't come to the table, you don't get fed, period.

    November 5, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. Carmen, Miami FL

    Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct–Republicans can't do much else. If you're not there and you're not cooperating, why should Democrats listen to anything you say?

    November 5, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. aproudmemberofthepatrioticmob

    You need to understand one BIG change that the Obama administration is following (not sure if everyone notices this)


    You cannot go to the world body asking for more IF you yourselves do not do enough first!!!

    This is good for us – Cheney NEVER believed in such principles and considers this stupid....

    November 5, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. Dan, TX

    Hey Republicans, you are not participating in governing. If you don't play, you lose. Thanks for letting the democrats do whatever they want.

    November 5, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  10. LacrosseDad

    the plan is to outlaw all volcanos and lava flows starting 2010.

    November 5, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  11. Larry

    It is definitely time to make a rule in the House and Senate where people that don't do their jobs, lose their jobs

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH of this Republican OBSTRUCTIONISM ...

    November 5, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  12. chris

    On Foxnews GOP members say they're being locked out of meetings. I have trouble believing this...

    November 5, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  13. Larry

    This is all so Goldman Sachs and the financial barrons can create a market where none currently exists. Once created, they will use their enormous power to pump up costs that you and I will end up paying for in the end. Ask Matt Taibbi, writer for Rolling Stone. They did it with housing, worthless AIG credit default swaps, oil, and now they're looking for the next boondoggle. Will we fall for it again? Probably because both parties are in on it. All this from a former liberal who actually had false hope for the new kids in DC.

    November 5, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  14. gt

    gee thats a surprise ,,,,, al gore and his chicken little" the sky is falling "was taken in hook line and sinker by these old , out of touch senators , who are all rich and dont have to worry about a job,,, so long jobs,,,, thanks for nothing,,,,

    November 5, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  15. RCasson

    Good. Keep ignoring the GOP idiots and come 2010 and 2012, voters will do the same. They're all childih fools.

    November 5, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  16. T. K.

    Good for them. It's about time forget about the gop and get things done. When the gop see that they are moving without them-they will come around.

    November 5, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  17. Hawaii Gal

    Yeah! They did the right thing, we need to save our planet so that future generations can enjoy it. The GOPers obviously only care about today, and I guess don't care about the planet that we will be leaving to our children.

    November 5, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  18. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    The idiot Dems are just determined to ruin the economy, aren't they?

    November 5, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  19. IVOTE

    How childish will the GOP get? Time for them to "man up", show up and continue the work they have been elected to do.

    November 5, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. David

    In case any of you are interested in FACTS over the spin, feel free to read the bill before making up your mind as to whether you are for or against it. (Yeah, I know most of us have no interest in facts at all).

    The full text of the bill is on
    Search by bill number: S. 1733
    A bill to create clean energy jobs, promote energy independence, reduce global warming pollution, and transition to a clean energy economy.

    November 5, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. Michael

    Hopefully Republicans continue to sit out all votes in congress so we can fix the disastrous and humiliating failures of the 12 years of Right Wing Conservative Republican rule in the House and Senate.

    November 5, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
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