Representatives Steve Scalise (R-La.), Joe Barton (R-Tex.), and 103 other original co-sponsors introduced a resolution expressing the sense of Congress that a tax on carbon dioxide emissions would harm the U. S. economy. Scalise is chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and Barton is former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. H. Con. Res. 24 would not forbid the House from passing a carbon tax bill in the future simply because Congress cannot bind itself in that way.
The purpose of the resolution rather is to build congressional and public opposition to a carbon tax. Some observers have said this is unnecessary because neither the House nor the Senate would vote for a big new tax on energy use. That is true. Moreover, the White House has said repeatedly that they have not and will not propose a carbon tax. That is also true. However, the White House’s denials are carefully worded not to rule out supporting a carbon tax proposal that was part of a comprehensive and bipartisan budget or tax reform deal. The White House really wants Republicans to propose a carbon tax.
The attraction for including a carbon tax in any big budget or tax deal is considerable for the big spenders in Congress because it’s the only thing on the table that would raise a lot of new revenue. A tax of twenty dollars per ton of carbon dioxide emitted would raise over $100 billion in its first year. By burying it in a package, no Member of Congress would have to take an up or down vote on a stand-alone carbon tax and could still protest in public that he was against the carbon tax but had to accept it in order to pass the whole package. A further problem is that these big budget and tax deals are negotiated in secret by House and Senate leaders, chairmen and senior members of the relevant committees, and the White House.
As it happens, the day before Scalise and Barton introduced their resolution, Representative Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) released a discussion draft of “carbon-pricing” legislation. “Putting a price on carbon could help solve two of the nation’s biggest challenges at once: preventing climate change and reducing the budget deficit,” Waxman said in a press release.