Senate Committee Holds Sharp Debate Over Climate Bill
And we’re off. The Senate hearings on climate legislation began Tuesday, and as NPR reports, things were heated. The Senate’s version of the climate bill promises a cap and trade system that would put an extra price on fuel and systems that emit greenhouse gases. Depending on which side of the aisle you are on, that’s either really good, or really bad.
The Democrats believe that the bill in its current form will not only save our ailing environment, but our ailing economy as well. Senator John Kerry, the bill’s co-sponsor, said to the committee, “We will create millions of jobs, new jobs, jobs that cannot be exported, because we will create our energy here at home.”
Republicans, on the other hand, have repeatedly focused on how the bill will affect the economies of their home states, both through job loss and higher taxes passed on to consumers. “The businesses that will be hit with this high carbon tax will pass along these higher prices, which are disguised taxes to every family, every small business and every farm in the United States,” said Senator Kit Bond of Missouri.
Over at the Huffington Post, Jeff Muskus argued that the bill’s requirements would likely need to weaken significantly to get the 60 votes needed to avoid the possibility of a filibuster. He also noted that many senators, having already made up their minds on the issue, left directly after their opening remarks.
Even those most likely to vote for the bill in its final form had criticisms. Max Baucus of Montana, the second highest-ranking Democrat on the committee, told the forum that “The legislation before us is about our economy. Montana, with our resource-based agriculture and tourism economies, cannot afford the unmitigated impacts of climate change. But we also cannot afford the unmitigated affects of climate change legislation. That’s what I support passing common-sense legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while protecting the economy. The key word in that sentence is ‘passing.’”
According to Baucus and others, the bill’s requirement to reduce emissions 20 percent by 2020 is too aggressive.
John Kerry balked at Republican reports of the high costs of the bill, specifically the comments of James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Seen in the video clip below, Kerry points out that such analysis ignores the positive effects of creating green jobs, as well as the cost of doing nothing.
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The panel continued through Thursday, hearing testimony from 54 witnesses and far more debate. The question remains what compromises will need to be made in order to get some kind of climate legislation on the books.