Republicans had boycotted the bill drafting sessions, demanding a more time for the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a detailed analysis of how much the bill will cost the economy and ordinary consumers.
Boxer defended her decision to go ahead with the vote despite the boycott.
“The committee and Senate rules that have been in place during Republican and Democratic majorities are there to be used when the majority feels it is in the best interest of their states and of the nation to act,” she said in a statement.
The EPA has done an extensive analysis of a climate change bill passed by the House of representatives in June, and Boxer said it would be uneconomical to order a new study of what are essentially very similar proposals. But Boxer’s move angered Republicans as well as some moderate Democrats who have reservations about the bill. A powerful Democrat on her committee, Max Baucus of Montana, voted no today. making the final count 11-1.
He said in a statement he was worried that the 20% target was too high and that he wanted more protection for agriculture. But he added: “I’m going to work to get climate change legislation that can get 60 votes, get through the US Senate and signed into law.”
The bill’s prospects are also threatened by twin defeats this week for
Democrats in governors’ elections in New Jersey and Virginia. Senators,
especially those from coal producing and rust belt states who had earlier
raised concerns that the climate bill could be a “jobs killer” are now much
more likely to distance themselves from Barack Obama’s agenda.
“The question is, do people think we’re tending to the things they care
about?” John Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia who has been on the fence on climate change, told reporters. “Don’t think people in my state
are going to stand up and start cheering about Copenhagen,” Rockefeller
Other Democratic senators – whose support for a climate change law had
already been doubtful – said they would now have to think carefully about
economic consequences of energy reform. “People need to be saying slow it
down and don’t add more to the deficit,” said Ben Nelson a Democrat from
Nebraska. “And what have many of us been talking about? We don’t want to
see anything added to the deficit unless there’s cost containment.”
Boxer reportedly defied advice from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid,
to give the Republicans until next Tuesday to end their boycott. She also
disregarded four moderate Republican senators whose support is seen as
critical to the bill’s passage. The senators wrote to the EPA on Wednesday
warning they could not support a bill without a detailed cost analysis from
“We have a keen interest in ensuring that cost estimates, models and other
data critical to the legislative process be made available to members of
Congress and the public in a timely manner,” the four senators wrote. “We
cannot support legislation without this information.”
However, John Kerry who is leading an effort to craft a broader climate and
energy bill that would allow offshore drilling and expand nuclear power,
said the vote would not hurt prospects of action on global warming. “This
is and has always been a big lift,” he said.
Kerry said earlier that growing support for climate change legislation in
the business community and the opportunities for different regions in the
US would eventually overpower other arguments. He also said that the US
chamber of commerce, which has been opposing the climate change bill, now
seemed to be adopting a more nuanced position.