On April 6, 2011, 50 Senators voted for S. 482, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, a bill to stop EPA from ‘legislating’ climate policy under the guise of implementing the Clean Air Act. Supporters needed 60 votes to pass the bill. “Senate Definitively Beats Back Efforts to Restrict EPA Climate Rules,” declared the title of Inside EPA’s column (April 8, 2011) on the vote. That is spin masquerading as news.
Let’s review some not-so-ancient history. In 2003, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced S. 139, the Climate Stewardship Act, a carbon cap-and-trade bill. It was defeated by a vote of 43-55. In 2005, McCain and Lieberman introduced a revised version, S. 1151, the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act. It went down in flames by a bigger margin: 38-60. In 2007, McLieberman introduced yet another iteration (S. 280), which never even made it to the floor for a vote.
In three different Congresses, the McLieberman bill died in the Senate. After these continual defeats, did Inside EPA, the bill’s sponsors, or any environmental group declare that the Senate “definitively” rejected cap-and-trade?
Of course not. Yet S. 482 garnered more votes than any cap-and-trade bill the Senate has ever debated. Sponsors of S. 482 say they will press for other opportunities to hold additional votes. The day after the Senate vote, the House passed an identical measure (H.R. 910) by a vote of 255-172, a large victory margin that should improve prospects for eventual passage in the Senate.
Another vote could occur as early as next month when Congress debates whether to raise the national debt ceiling. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested last week that legislation to raise the debt ceiling — a key priority for Team Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed (D-Nev.) — might have to include curbs on EPA’s regulatory authority (The Hill, April 16, 2011).
Since reports of S. 482’s demise are greatly exaggerated, it is useful to examine the tactics of leading Senate opponents. Previous posts review California Sen. Barbara Boxer’s tirade against S. 482 and Montana Sen. Max Baucus’s alternative legislation to codify EPA’s ever-growing ensemble of greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations. Today’s post offers a running commentary on New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s floor statement opposing S. 482 (Congressional Record, April 6, 2011, pp. S2170-71). If Lautenberg’s rant is the best opponents can do, they have “definitively” lost the debate. [click to continue…]