Thursday, March 26, 2015

49 Senators Back Budget Amendment to Bring Down Carbon

U.S. Capitol Building (Credit: Architect of the Capitol) Click to Enlarge.
Nearly half the Senate voted last night for an amendment to the nonbinding fiscal 2016 budget resolution that calls on Congress to address carbon emissions.

The amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was defeated with a vote of 49-50.  In language tailored to the underlying resolution, it calls for policies "protecting Americans from the impacts of human-induced climate change, which include action on policies that reduce emissions by the amounts that the scientific community says are needed to avert catastrophic climate change."

The measure was meant to come to the floor side-by-side with one by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would have barred enactment of a federal carbon tax.  But Blunt pulled his amendment at the last minute because it was ruled nongermane to the underlying budget resolution. Meanwhile, the measure has been redrafted and could receive a vote tonight.

Blunt said prior to the votes that his amendment made an important statement even though no legislation to price carbon emissions is expected to move anytime soon.  He noted that the nation's largest grid operator, PJM Interconnection, has modeled pricing carbon through an interstate program as a means of complying with U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan.

"I think the administration's trying to do a carbon tax by any other name, and if there's no carbon tax movement out there, it should be really easy for members of the Senate to vote not to allow one to go forward," he said.

But there is scant evidence of a "carbon tax movement," though a handful of conservative economists and think tanks have proposed a revenue-neutral model either as a substitute for EPA's existing power plant rule or to comply with it.  Jerry Taylor, president of new libertarian think tank Niskanen Center, is the latest to propose that idea.

And one of the few carbon price bills introduced in the last Congress was offered by Sanders, who quipped before the Blunt amendment was pulled that "I'm probably not going to vote for it."

He said before the votes that Republicans "continue to show themselves to be the anti-science party" when it comes to climate change.  But five Republicans did cross the aisle to vote for Sanders' amendment:  Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Read more at 49 Senators Back Budget Amendment to Bring Down Carbon

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