Boxer Okays Senate Climate Bill, Without Amendments or GOP

The Senate environment committee approved its climate change bill today on an 11-1 vote, shrugging off a boycott by all of the panel’s Republicans but missing out on the chance to consider amendments to the lengthy legislation.

070619_boxer.jpgSen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (Photo: AP)

The
environment panel’s chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) had offered
Republicans several days to abandon their walkout, promising time to
consider GOP amendments and a complete Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) modeling of the bill before it comes to the Senate floor.

But
environment committee Republicans were unmoved, insisting on an
immediate five-week delay for EPA analysis despite testimony from the
EPA that such work would produce little new information. Boxer’s GOP
counterpart on the panel, Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), seemed to delight in
forcing the chairman’s hand as he labeled the no-amendments move the "nuclear option."

The
question now becomes whether the specific proposals added by Boxer’s
panel — including grant programs for transit and clean transportation
that nearly triple the funding approved by the House — can survive a long slog through as many as five other committees.

Boxer
insisted this morning that "many things in this bill … are going to
be part of that comprehensive bill" that ultimately reaches a full
Senate vote. But others on the committee acknowledged that the bill’s
one-party approval would not bode well for its political prospects.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the chief sponsor
of efforts to boost the climate bill’s clean transportation provisions,
described himself as "very, very, very disappointed," particularly
given the loss of a chance to amend the legislation.

Carper submitted an amendment that would have added
more than $400 million to the bill’s annual set-aside of climate money
for transit, inter-city rail, local land use planning and other
projects.  "I don’t like this process," Carper said this morning. "I
don’t think any of us do."

The
question now becomes whether Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), the lone
Republican who has shown willingness to work with Democrats on the
climate bill, can provide the momentum needed to overcome the Senate’s
molasses-slow pace.

Even if Graham’s work
produces an end result that can win over liberals and centrists, the
billions of dollars that the environment committee devotes to
transportation is not guaranteed to survive that process.

The lone vote against the environment committee’s climate bill came from Sen. Max Baucus
(D-MT), chairman of the Finance Committee — which has asserted
jurisdiction over the apportionment of valuable climate "allowances" to
various sectors of the economy, including transportation.

Late Update:
While the environment panel was finishing up its work on the bill,
Inhofe was giving an interview to Fox News (which mistakenly labeled it
the "energy committee"). Inhofe called Baucus’ no vote a sign that the
bill is "dead" and claimed that this summer’s conservative protests at
town-hall meetings were driven as much by concern over the climate bill
as over the health care bill. Check out the video below:

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