- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Democratic-sponsored measure to address global warming was defeated in the Senate on Friday because it was too aggressive and would destroy local economies, said not only opponents but even some Democrats who voted for it.

California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer, the bill’s lead sponsor, vowed to reintroduce it next year. But a group of 10 of her party members, including some who voted to keep the bill alive, say it will fail next time as well unless it protects industries that are big producers of greenhouse gases but also major local employers.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, a freshman Democrat from Ohio and among the chamber’s more liberal members, said on the floor that Mrs. Boxer’s bill would doom his state’s economy.

“We might as well throw a going-away party for the steel industry, for the cement industry, for the glass industry, for the aluminum industry, for the chemical industry,” said Mr. Brown, who signed the letter to Mrs. Boxer.

Mr. Brown voted against the measure, but all nine of the other senators who signed the letter voted for it.

Still, Mrs. Boxer and other supporters say they’re emboldened - not discouraged - over the bill’s progress and its prospects of becoming law next year when a new Congress and president take office.

“This is a landmark day. It’s another milestone in the fight against global warming,” said an upbeat Mrs. Boxer minutes after the bill she co-sponsored was defeated.

“The Clean Air Act took 10 years; this will not take 10 years. A bill like this doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.

The measure, which was written by Sens. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, and Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, called for establishing a cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Supporters said it was one of the most significant pro-environmental pieces of legislation ever on Capitol Hill. Opponents said the measure would cost jobs, hurt the overall economy, and cause gas prices to rise.

Mrs. Boxer, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said she and others beginning next week will hold meetings to draft a strategy on reintroducing the bill next year.

The 48-36 vote was 12 short of what was needed to end a filibuster and proceed to a final vote on passage. Thirty-nine Democrats, seven Republicans and two independents voted “yes.” The “no” votes came from 32 Republicans and four Democrats.

Six absent senators sent letters in support of ending the filibuster, including John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat - their parties’ presumptive presidential nominees.

“We now have an indication of [support of] some 54 [senators], and I am convinced that if you work out those differences, particularly for some of our Democratic colleagues … we will near that magic number of 60,” said Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.

But it’s difficult to predict how many votes the bill would have garnered if it had been up for a final vote on the merits, as some senators who voted to end the filibuster also said they had significant concerns with the package.

Mr. McCain, who voted with the majority to end the filibuster, said he would not support a global warming bill without provisions to expand the use of nuclear energy, which burns no fossil fuels.

“I believe this legislation needs to be debated, amended, improved and ultimately enacted,” Mr. McCain said. But “that does not mean the bill is perfect - far from it.”

The defeated measure called for caps of carbon dioxide emissions of a designated group of polluters, such as power plants, refineries and factories. Companies then would be allowed to buy and sell their allowances to others companies having a tougher time meeting the government emission mandates.

The bill had a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions - which are blamed for global climate changes - by about 70 percent by mid-century.

President Bush, who had threatened to veto the measure, has opposed past efforts to set government mandates for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. But with the presidential candidates in both parties backing climate legislation, supporters of such a “cap-and-trade” measure say they are hopeful a bill will pass next year.

“We don’t have a president who wants this to happen, and that is the great difference, frankly, in the outcome,” Mr. Kerry said. “If the administration is there saying we’ve got to get this done and moving to help with the negotiations and putting the agencies at the disposal of the legislators, boy, you can move through this and get it done.

“We know we’re looking forward to that either way come next January.”

Republican and Democratic leaders accused each other of purposely muddying the debate, leaving Senate Democrats to force what they acknowledged was a premature vote.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, accused Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, of jettisoning the bill rather than allowing votes on Republican amendments calling for assurances it wouldn’t cause an increases in gas prices or cost U.S. jobs.

“The message is clear: the majority can’t abandon this bill fast enough,” Mr. McConnell said. “On the one hand, the majority says climate change is the most important issue facing the planet. Yet they’ve rushed the debate on that topic and brought the bill to a premature end.”

Mr. McConnell also halted the debate on the measure Wednesday when he forced the clerk to read the entire 491-page bill as a protest over what Republicans say are broken promises by Democrats to confirm several Bush judicial nominees.

But supporters say claims the bill would significantly increase gas prices are bogus, and accuse Mr. McConnell and opponents in the Senate of blocking progress on one of the most significant measures the chamber will debate this year.

“We saw this morning yet another example of Bush-McCain Republicans refusing to address one of the most important issues of our time,” Mr. Reid said. “Given the opportunity to solve the urgent energy and economic crises of today and environmental crises of tomorrow, they ran away from the debate.”

Mr. Lieberman said that, despite the bill’s defeat, the action taken by the Senate this week showed the world that the United States is serious about addressing the issue of climate change.

“It may be a small step forward for mankind [but] it’s a giant step forward for the United States Senate,” he said. ” I think people around the world are going to be greatly encouraged by the fact that 54 members of the United States Senate said they want to support a response to global warming.”

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