Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Senate Launches Lengthy Debate On Climate Change Bill (S. 3036)

Jun 2: The U.S. Senate voted 74-14 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to debate on S. 3036, the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act [See WIMS 6/2/08]. Senator Boxer the chief sponsor of the Substitute now being considered said, "This gets us off to a strong start. Members are no longer saying in great numbers that global warming is not an issue. The real work on the Senate floor now begins, as we seek to strengthen this bill, not weaken it."

The Senate vote launches what will likely be a highly contentious debate generally pitting Republicans against Democrats and major business groups against environmental organizations. Initially, the Senate began on June 3, with 30 hours of general debate on the bill, followed by what could be lengthy debates on each of many individual amendments to be offered. The process will surely take days, if not weeks. Many Republicans are saying the bill has no chance of passage and as WIMS reported yesterday, the Administration has issued a 4-page Statement of Administration Policy indicating its reasons why the President will veto the bill (See below).

An initial confrontation occurred following the cloture vote regarding the 30 hours of general debate which Republicans intend to exercise. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), in response to Republicans who insisted on 30 hours of debate under the rules prior to beginning on the amendment process said, ". . .the first amendment that comes up is subject to endless debate. There is no limit. The notion that we have to have 30 hours before we can get to a debate on an amendment--each amendment is subject to endless debate; the bill itself is subject to endless debate. So the concept of coming out here and saying: Oh, we have to have 30 hours--this bill will be debated, every amendment will be debated. But it would serve the Senate's purpose to actually get to an amendment now and then we could spend 30, 40, 48 hours, a week--we all know this is going to take a while--legislating an important bill does take a while here. But this notion that we have to spend 30 hours without any amendment just to talk about the bill when the bill will be exhaustively talked about in the context of any amendment is, frankly, specious."

As the Senate begins its debate on S. 3036, the White House listed its reasons why it is the "wrong way to approach reducing greenhouse gas emissions." The Administration said the wrong way of S. 3036 is:

  • to sharply raise the price of gas, raise taxes, or demand drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realized and every chance of hurting our economy;
  • to impose burdensome new mandates on top of ones that were enacted just last year;
  • to leave limitations on nuclear power generation and waste disposal unaddressed;
  • to establish unrealistic timeframes for massively restructuring the economy that assume the use of technologies not yet developed or demonstrated to be economically feasible;
  • to create a system that will squeeze household income, cost many jobs, reduce growth in the economy, impose a huge new tax, and create uncontrolled spending;
  • to take unilateral action that will undercut efforts to get developing countries to limit their emissions while having negligible effect on GHG concentrations and global temperatures;
  • to impose counterproductive provisions that could ignite a carbon-based trade war; and
  • to allow the misapplication of a patchwork of 30-year-old laws that were not designed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

The Administration said, "S. 3036’s approach to reducing greenhouse gases would force drastic and costly emission cuts. EPA estimates the costs necessary to achieve this GHG abatement are on the order of $10 trillion through 2050. This would make S. 3036 by far the single most expensive regulatory bill in our Nation's history. These costs would be passed on to consumers through higher electricity and heating bills and increased gasoline costs. In fact, the abatement costs for this bill are estimated to be approximately three times as much as previous Senate climate bills analyzed by EPA."

In response to the White House criticism, Senator Boxer said, "Just when we finally have a chance to get off of Big Oil and foreign oil, you can count on the Bush Administration to fight us every step of the way. Where were they when gas prices went to 250 percent of what they were at the start of this Administration? They did nothing. The new fuel economy standards passed by this Congress will offset their claims of a 50 cent increase in the price of gas over more than 20 years. And this bill also contains tax relief for consumer energy costs, though the Bush Administration's own Energy Information Administration's data show that it should not be needed to cover the price of gas."

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued a statement saying, "The White House today put itself on a road to the wrong side of history by opposing a bipartisan bill that will fight climate change, reduce our oil dependence, and restore America’s competitiveness. They might as well have said, 'Let's do more of what we've been doing for the economy and the environment. We think its working really well.’ In opposing the Climate Security Act being debated in the Senate this week, the White House today complained that the cost of gasoline could go up 53 cents over the next 22 years if we finally deal with climate change. They apparently missed the fact that under our current oil-addicted energy policy, gas went up $1.10 in just five months last year – and continues to climb. The only answer to high gas prices is to break our over-dependence on oil, which is exactly what the Climate Security Act will do. Analysis based on data from MIT shows that the Climate Security Act would reduce oil imports by at least half a trillion dollars through 2030."

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) also issued a statement saying, “After seven years of trying to mislead us on the science of global warming, the President is now trying to mislead us on the economics. The Climate Security Act will create good American jobs building our clean energy future and studies by the president’s own administration show that under this bill the economy will continue to grow. And, the cost of doing nothing will be far greater. Inaction is no longer an option.”

UPDATE June 4, 2008:

Tracking The Debate On The Climate Security Act (S. 3036) - Jun 4: The Pew Center on Global Climate Change has begun to provide daily tracking and reporting on the progress of the debate on S. 3036, the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act [See WIMS 6/2/08].

For example, today's June 4, AM report indicates that: The following Senators spoke in favor of the bill: Senators Boxer (D-CA), Lieberman (ID-CT), Warner (R-VA), Casey (D-PA), Dole (R-NC), Feinstein (D-CA), Kerry (D-MA), Sanders (I-VT), Snowe (R-ME). It is worth noting that Sens. Dole and Warner did not vote for the Lieberman-McCain cap-and-trade bill in 2003 and 2005. The following Senators spoke strongly against the bill: Senators Inhofe (R-OK), Barrasso (R-WY), Corker (R-TN), Craig (R-ID), Domenici (R-NM), Enzi (R-WY), Grassley (R-IA). Other Senators -- Alexander (R-TN), Gregg (R-NH), and Specter (R-PA)—acknowledged the need to take climate action but spoke against the bill in its current form. These senators described changes they would like make to the bill and indicated forthcoming amendments to do so. [More details provided].

The Pew Center works with 42 major corporations in its Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC). The primarily Fortune 500 companies together employ more than 3.8 million people and represent $2.8 trillion in market capitalization -- and they're working with the Center to shape policy and chart practical solutions to climate change. The corporations meet quarterly, participate in workshops and conferences, and review and offer comment on all Pew Center work. To maintain independence, the Pew Center accepts no monetary contributions from BELC companies.

Access the daily S. 3036 tracking website (
click here). Access additional resources from the Pew Center including: a Brief Summary of the Bill (click here); an Expanded Summary (click here); a Comparison Chart: Economy-Wide Cap-and-Trade Proposals in the 110th Congress (click here); and a Letter to Senators from Pew Center President Eileen Claussen on Climate Bill (click here).

Access the roll call vote on cloture (

click here). Access legislative details on S. 3036 with links to the Congressional Record and floor debates (click here). Access the Statement of Administration Policy (click here). Access releases from Senator Boxer (click here); and (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a new 18-page summary of S. 3036 from the Pew Center (click here). [*Climate]