Senate Democrats Poke Holes in GOP’s Climate Change ‘Boycott’

Republicans on the Senate environment committee made good on their vow to boycott this morning’s first meeting on climate change legislation, leaving Democrats to poke holes in the GOP’s insistence on a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis of the bill.

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) visited the environment panel this morning to read a statement (viewable above) calling for the EPA to take more time examining the climate bill’s costs while using a more negative model than the agency used in its initial analysis of the legislation, released late last month.

Voinovich left the committee room soon afterward, leaving the panel’s Democrats to question David McIntosh, the EPA’s associate administrator for congressional affairs, on the relative irrelevance of performing another climate bill analysis.

If the EPA were to go through that process, McIntosh told the Democrats, "you would see vanishingly small differences" between the House climate bill that passed in June — which was given a full examination — and the Senate’s version, which nearly triples the House’s investment in clean transportation.

Moreover, according to McIntosh, there is more paperwork available to the environment committee on the costs of this year’s climate bill than there was in 2007, when Republicans allowed a similar cap-and-trade carbon emissions plan to proceed to consideration by the full Senate.

"It is difficult to link the motivation [for the GOP’s move] to an
amount of the analysis before the committee at this point in time,"
said McIntosh, a former adviser to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and his primary aide during the 2007 climate debate.

The environment panel’s chairman, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), kept the committee’s meeting open in the hopes of breaking the stalemate. No amendments can be taken up without GOP members present — potentially derailing any plans to increase the bill’s transportation funding.

"If our colleagues would join us, the amendment process would go on as long as necessary to debate" proposed tweaks from both sides of the aisle, Boxer said. "The time to do an analysis is when there’s changes that will move the models. Otherwise you’re wasting taxpayer dollars."

Democrats’ efforts to undermine the Republican climate boycott continued even outside the environment panel. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promised today that he would submit the upper chamber’s final bill, which will be a merged product of the work of five separate committees, to the full EPA workup that the GOP is demanding.

At a press conference today, Reid likening Republicans to unwilling dance partners. "She has been extremely deliberative and very patient," Reid said of Boxer. "And so I don’t know what more she can do."

Late Update: At the end of today’s climate change session, Boxer revealed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — which recently lost several high-profile members thanks to its criticism of the congressional climate bills — has written to the Senate endorsing the legislative goals set out in a recent op-ed by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

The Chamber’s letter notably stops short of endorsing the climate legislation currently on the table in the Senate, co-written by Kerry and Boxer. Still, it could lead to a loss of political cover for the staunchest opponents of the bill and help push the GOP back to the negotiating table; how quickly that happens remains to be seen.

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