Blogs - Blogs
Statement of Senator Specter on America's Climate Security Act, S. 3036
June 4, 2008

 Posted By Marc Morano – 9:12 AM ET – Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov

Statement of Senator Specter on America's Climate Security Act, S. 3036

Link to Senator Specter's News Release 

   Mr. SPECTER. I thank the Chair. It has been a little tough getting these 15 minutes, but I am glad to have them.

    Mr. WARNER. The Senator showed courtesy in getting them.

    Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I sought recognition to discuss a number of amendments which I will be proposing to offer. I intend to offer an amendment on emission caps because of my concern that the emission caps which are set in the Lieberman-Warner bill cannot be obtained.

    I believe the problem of global warming is a major problem and we ought to deal with it, but I think we have to deal with it within the realistic bounds as to what the technology would permit, and it is going to be very difficult to get 60 votes to oppose cloture, and if a legislative proposal is on the floor which is unattainable, we are going to end up getting nothing. So it is my intention to take the emission caps from the Bingaman-Specter bill and offer them as an amendment to the Lieberman-Warner bill.

    I intend to offer a second amendment -- a cost-containment safety-valve amendment. This amendment will include the so-called technology accelerator mechanism which has been included in the Bingaman-Specter bill, and will provide a very important safeguard on the legislation.

    I intend to offer a third amendment on international competitiveness. It is vital that we not structure legislation which will put United States industry at a substantial disadvantage. On February 14, I testified before the Senate Finance Committee on this subject, noting that China wishes to have 30 years, and by that time there will be no steel industry. So there have to be restrictions on steel illustratively coming in the United States, and this amendment on international competitiveness will deal with that subject.

    I intend further to offer an amendment captioned "Process Gas Emissions," because there is no technological alternative to a company's annual requirement to submit emissions allowances.

    Finally, there is a potential fifth amendment, which I am not yet certain about, and that would involve the pathway to the future for coal amendment. The statement was made earlier in the past half hour about Senators not understanding this bill. I think that is a real problem. This is an extraordinarily complex bill. We have had the Warner-Lieberman bill, then we have had the Boxer bill, a second bill, and now I understand there is going to be a third substitute. So as we are working through the amendments which I have articulated, it is a difficult matter, with the topography changing and with the underlying bill changing, and it is my hope this bill will remain on the floor with procedures to give Senators sufficient time to take up the very important matters which are at hand.

    The first and most fundamental one is to have enough debate so that there is an understanding of the bill. I agree with my distinguished colleague from Virginia, Senator Warner, who a few moments ago asked for time so there could be debate and an exchange. Too often speeches are made on this floor without an opportunity for debate and questioning and cross-questioning to get to the very important matters. There has been some speculation that the procedure that will be employed by the majority leader -- so-called filling the tree -- would preclude further amendments. I hope that will not be done here. Regrettably, it has become a commonplace practice, going back with Republican majority leaders and Democratic majority leaders, so that the filling of the tree has made a very fundamental change in Senate procedure, which traditionally has been that a Senator could offer an amendment on any subject at any time and get a vote.

    When the tree is filled, obviously matters cannot be debated and efforts for cloture cannot move forward. This is a matter which has awaited a fair amount of time. It is complex. And if Senators are not able to offer amendments, such as the amendments which I am proposing to offer, there is no way to find out what the merits of the bill are and what the merits of the amendments are.

    On the subject of filling the tree, I have had for months now an amendment on a rules change filed with the rules committee which would alter the authority of the majority leader to employ the so-called procedure of filling the tree.

    Another concern which is related has been the shift in the practice of the Senate on the filibusters. There had been a tradition in the Senate that when somebody offered a bill, and there was opposition and the opposition intended to conduct a filibuster -- that is to deny a vote unless 60 votes were obtained to cut off debate -- that there would be that kind of debate. Most recently, we have seen the practice employed that if someone says there is an intent to have a filibuster, there is a motion to proceed for cloture on a filibuster, there is a 20-minute vote, and when cloture is not invoked, the matter is eliminated.

    Recently, we had a very serious piece of legislation coming to the floor which sought to change a ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States on the rights of women to obtain relief, where the Supreme Court had imposed a 6-month statute of limitations in a situation where the woman who sought relief didn't even know she had a cause of action within the 6 months. Well, that matter came and went so fast on the Senate floor that nobody knew what it was about. Had the proponents of that legislation debated it, brought it to public attention, and had the opponents of the legislation, who wanted to filibuster it, engaged in extended debate, the public would have understood what was going on.

    So the matter of having adequate time to debate this very complex legislation is very important. And if there is to be any possibility of finding 60 Senators to coalesce around a cloture petition, 60 Senators to agree on legislation, Senators are going to have to have an opportunity to offer their amendments. There is great therapy in being able to offer an amendment, even if it is not accepted. But we can hardly engage in a practice of filling the tree, where Senators are not permitted to offer amendments, and expect to have this bill move forward, people understand it, and find 60 Senators who are willing to come together on the very important piece of legislation which is at hand.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that there be included in the Record at this time a summary of the sheet of the five potential amendments I intend to offer, and an explanation of the amendment on the cost-containment safety valve, an explanation on the amendment on international competition, an explanation on the amendment on process gas emissions, and the single sheet which explains the proposal on a possible pathway to the future for the expanded use of coal amendment.

Majority Office
410 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-8832
Minority Office
456 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washington, DC 20510-6175
phone: 202-224-6176