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Republicans may stall climate change bill

- The Washington Times - Friday, October 30, 2009

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer said late Thursday that she wants to hold drafting sessions as early as Tuesday on the climate change bill pending before her committee, but the meetings could be delayed by Republican stalling tactics.

A spokesman for Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the panel, said committee Republicans were leaning toward boycotting the sessions and would meet soon to decide whether they would stay away. At least two members of the minority must attend the sessions, known as markups, for them to be convened, according to committee rules.

A decision is expected from committee Republicans on Friday. Mrs. Boxer, a California Democrat, told reporters she would "use every tool" to get the bill voted out of the committee, where it is expected to pass easily with no more than two Democratic votes against it.

"We're going forward, we're going to do our job," she said.

The exact timing of any drafting sessions depends on Mrs. Boxer, who must give Republicans at least three days notice before scheduling a committee meeting. No notice had been sent as of Thursday evening.

She said her staff planned to work over the weekend to address the concerns of Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, who wants a less-stringent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than is contained in the bill, as well as the elimination of regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Democrat, also raised concerns about the so-called price collar that would establish minimum and maximum prices for emissions permits, or allowances, that polluters would need to obtain to comply with the law. Asked whether she was planning to alter the bill, Mrs. Boxer said "we may have a couple of small things," in order to address Mr. Specter's concerns.

She said, however, that committee staff would be sending additional information to Mr. Baucus in the hopes of winning his support. She said the 2020 reduction target of 20 percent in her bill has become more easily attainable because emissions have already fallen up to 8 percent during the economic recession.

Her comments came after the conclusion of three days of sometimes contentious hearings on the climate change bill. Republicans, led by Mr. Inhofe and Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, said the committee should not proceed to votes until it had a full economic analysis of the bill from EPA. No Republicans have signaled that they will back the bill.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson told the committee Tuesday that her agency relied heavily on its economic analysis of the House-passed version of the bill in writing its analysis of the Senate bill co-authored by Mrs. Boxer and Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat. She said they were similar enough not to require a repeat of a full analysis.