Senate global warming debate starts with frosty divide

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 7/10/2009

Last month the U.S. House of Representatives approved the nation’s first cap-and-trade law after barely a day of floor discussion. In the Senate, however, the proposed law appears to face a tougher battle.

The Senate committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on Tuesday, July 7 on global warming and legislative tools.

OOIDA opposes the House’s cap and trade proposal, and the Association has asked its near 160,000 members to contact their representatives about that measure, which would create an emissions credits system for many businesses and allow buying and selling of credits in an open market.

According to OOIDA’s Washington, DC, office, the July 7 hearing showcased the continued divide about climate change between the two parties in the Senate.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, who chairs the environment and public works committee, and James Inhofe, R-OK, the ranking Republican, each made strong statements during the hearing.

“I expect you will hear fierce words of doubt and fear and worse from the other side of the aisle,” Boxer said in her opening statement. “This is consistent with a pattern of “No, we can’t.”

Inhofe countered quickly in his opening statement.

“I would note that the Senate has voted on cap and trade three times: in 2003, in 2005 and in 2008,” Inhofe said. “In each and every instance, we defeated it. Now, Madame Chairman, here we go again.”

Mike Joyce, OOIDA director of legislative affairs, monitored Tuesday’s hearing and spoke with Land Line Now Host Mark Reddig on Thursday about the proposed cap-and-trade legislation.

Joyce said the House’s cap-and-trade plan would add heavy costs to important trucking-related businesses, including diesel makers.

“Those sorts of penalties that will be placed on the oil companies quite simply will drive up the price of refined oil products, including diesel fuel,” Joyce said. “Most likely, that price will be passed on to the end consumer, the trucker that’s filling up their tank.”

On Thursday, Boxer said she’ll put off a vote from the EPW committee on the climate initiative until fall.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, has set a Sept. 28 deadline for the six Senate committees working on the climate bill to finish work on the committee level, and President Obama would like global warming legislation wrapped up before he departs for a December climate summit in Copenhagen, Joyce said.

Joyce pointed out, however, that once the Senate passes such a bill, both chambers of congress have several more steps of approval before it would be presented to the White House for signature.

A busy congressional schedule interrupted by an August recess will leave plenty of work for any climate change tool to be approved, Joyce said. Though the Senate has 58 Democrats and two Independent senators who caucus with Democrats, the bill’s estimated costs per household will be unpopular during the current economic recession.

“Health care is number one, climate change is number two, and they’re going to have to twist a lot of arms to get something through,” Joyce said.

To make sure their voices are heard, Joyce urged OOIDA members to call their two state senators about the climate change issue.

“I would encourage all of our members who don’t really like what they’re hearing about this bill to reach out between now and Labor Day and talk with their senators,” Joyce said. “Find out where they’re going to be and express their opinions about this legislation.”

The U.S. Capital Switchboard can be reached at 202-224-3121.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer


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