Senate Climate Bill Invests Big in Transit, Reaps Big Deficit Reduction

As the Copenhagen climate talks reach a turning point, congressional negotiations over emissions cuts are taking a back seat to global debate. But some undeniably good news on the domestic front came late yesterday from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Sen_John_Kerry_Discusses_Partnership_China_NaObORtZBHul.jpgSen. John Kerry (D-MA) described the Copenhagen talks this week as a motivator for Senate climate action. (Photo: Getty)
The CBO found that the Senate environment committee's climate bill, which would nearly triple the House's investment in clean transportation, would decrease the federal deficit by "about $21 billion" during its first 10 years and result in net spending decreases even after that point.

Environment panel chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was elated by the CBO's report [PDF], which also attached a $16 billion estimate to the bill's 10-year funding for transit, land use, bike-ped infrastructure and other green transport.

Boxer said in a statement:

The CBO score shows that there is a way to design a clean energy and climate bill that is fiscally responsible and gets the job done – while protecting the health of our families and the planet.

But unfortunately, the money-saving news may not be enough to save the environment committee's framework, which sparked a GOP boycott and fears that moderate Democrats from coal-dominant states would ultimately withhold their votes.

Boxer's co-sponsor on the climate bill, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), is separately working with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) on a compromise climate proposal aimed at winning 60 votes in the upper chamber of Congress.

That bill is expected to include new subsidies for nuclear power as well as an emissions cap lower than the environment panel's version. Whether it maintains a respectable level of support for clean transportation remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Boxer's GOP counterpart on the committee, Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), stopped in Copenhagen for just two hours today to crow that a U.S. climate bill has "zero" chance of winning congressional passage.