Posted by Marc Morano – 4:43 PM ET – Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov
Boxer Waves White Flag on Lieberman-Warner Climate Bill
Washington DC - Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer conceded today that the Lieberman-Warner global warming cap-and-trade bill would be pulled if “weakening amendments” are added during the scheduled June 2008 floor debate. Boxer’s pledge today appeared to signal the 2008 exit strategy for pulling the Lieberman-Warner bill (America's Climate Security Act - S2191.) Greenwire reporter Darren Samuelsohn described Boxer as “pledging to punt the issue into 2009 if any amendments get added that weaken the legislation.”
“Boxer made combating global warming her top priority after she became chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee” reported an October 19, 2007 article in the Sacramento Bee. Political reality now appears to be denying Boxer the achievement of her “top priority” during the current Congress.
During today’s press conference, Boxer pledged to use the failed bill as a political tool during this election year.
“We will hold those who weakened it accountable in November,” Boxer said at a press conference with the heads of 15 environmental groups today. “We will pull the bill and bring back the legislation after we have a new Congress and a new President,” Boxer added, sounding a political warning to opponents of the bill. During the question and answer, Boxer said she would play “hardball” with Senators who vote against the bill. [Note: Noticeably absent from today’s press conference were the bill’s authors, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA). Also of note, not a single speaker during today’s press conference uttered the bill’s commonly referred-to name, “Lieberman-Warner.”]
Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), commented on Boxer’s warning to her fellow lawmakers.
“This should send a chilling message to any Senator who wishes to make any changes to the bill to lessen the economic impact on their constituents,” Inhofe said.
Inhofe further commented on Boxer’s press conference today.
"It's clear from Chairman Boxer's comments today that she does not anticipate being able to move this bill this year," Inhofe said. "As Chairman Boxer is aware, several amendments designed to protect the economy and to deploy low emission energy sources like nuclear are likely to pass during a floor debate. Even ardent supporters of cap-and-trade in the business community, notably Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, believe this bill is the wrong approach for America. It's inconceivable to me that supporters of this bill would try to force upon Americans more burdensome regulations while China remains exempt,” Inhofe added. [Note: Opponents of the bill include Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, prominent businessmen, and Senators normally open to cap-and-trade legislation like Senator John McCain (R-AZ) – LINK - See also: Lieberman-Warner Climate Bill Meets Resistance from Unexpected Sources ]
Today’s Greenwire also reported: “If anything, Boxer said she hoped to tack on amendments that strengthen the mid-century emission targets from around 70 percent to 80 percent.” Boxer’s pledge to stop “weakening amendments” and strengthen the bill appears to contradict several of the co-sponsors of the Lieberman-Warner bill. Dozens of amendments that were designed to protect the economy were deferred to the floor debate during the December 5, 2007, EPW Committee markup of Lieberman-Warner.
The co-sponsor of the bill, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), has not sounded as rigid regarding potential amendments to the bill. (See Greenwire December 11, 2007, article “Lieberman expects compromises during floor fight.” – LINK)
Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, a co-sponsor of the bill, has also expressed willingness to compromise. Baucus “cautioned that several tricky items still need to be resolved, including the effect of mandatory greenhouse gas limits on U.S. competitiveness and trade policy. But he also suggested that any concerns would be addressed through floor amendments,” reported a December 6, 2007, article in Greenwire. "We'll work out those kinks, those wrinkles, those difficulties when we get to the floor and finally this legislation will pass by a very large margin," Baucus said. (LINK)
Another hurdle the Lieberman-Warner bill faces is the enormous costs it would impose on the U.S. economy during a time when federal stimulus packages are being passed and the Federal Reserve is attempting to stimulate the economy. Senator Lieberman conceded on November 1, 2007, that the bill would cost “hundreds of billions of dollars." (LINK) Other estimates have put the cost of the bill in the trillions of dollars. (LINK)
In addition, the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) has warned that the impact of cap-and-trade energy "price increases would disproportionately affect people at the lower end of the income scale.” (LINK)
The other controversial aspect of the Lieberman-Warner bill is the provision for a presidentially appointed “Carbon Market Efficiency Board” which would create an entirely new federal bureaucracy modeled after the Federal Reserve to help set the price on carbon emissions. Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) warned on December 5, 2007, “The first thing one notices is how extremely complicated and far-reaching this proposal is. Rube Goldberg would be proud.” Bond produced a color diagram to illustrate the burdensome new layers of federal bureaucracy that the Lieberman-Warner bill would mandate.
A March 10, 2008, Los Angeles Times editorial titled “California's cap-and-trade won't work,” lamented the focus on cap-and-trade legislation. “Carbon taxes are a simpler, harder to manipulate and less economically damaging way to make polluters pay the costs of their environmental damage than cap-and-trade,” the editorial stated. In addition, Bloomberg News has called efforts to promote the Lieberman-Warner bill a "vain pursuit" and weighed in with a breakdown of the growing "resistance" the bill faces. (LINK)
Today’s Greenwire article expanded on the lack of unity among environmental groups for this bill.
But two environmental groups were noticeably absent from the press conference: Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. "While we have great respect for Senator Boxer and appreciate the leadership she is showing on global warming, it is premature to suggest that there is unity behind 'America's Climate Security Act' as introduced by Senators Lieberman and Warner," said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA. "The legislation is more a reflection of the pitfalls of political compromise than a real solution to safeguard the planet." Friends of the Earth Action President Brent Blackwelder said his group's opposition to the legislation "is not just strategic, it is also substantive." The Lieberman-Warner plan does not push for sharp enough emission cuts and gives away too many free cap-and-trade emission credits to industry. "Additionally, Friends of the Earth Action strongly disagrees with the assertion that Senator John McCain supports a strong global warming bill," he said, referring to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. "He does not yet support even this weak bill."
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