WASHINGTON – Democrats turned back repeated efforts by Republican senators to soften the economic impact of a global warming bill before advancing it out of a Senate committee on Wednesday.
It was the first bill calling for mandatory U.S. limits on so-called greenhouse gases to be taken up in Congress since global warming emerged as an environmental issue more than two decades ago. The bill was approved 11-8 by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
GOP critics of the bill argued that limiting greenhouse gas emissions could become a hardship because of higher energy costs.
But Sen. John Warner, of Virginia, a Republican co-sponsor who gave the bill legitimacy among many moderate GOP senators, called it “a chance to give America our opportunity … to be counted on this very very important issue.”
“We now move to the Senate floor,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who along with Warner had introduced the legislation.
The bill calls for the United States to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by 2050 from electric power plants, manufacturing and transportation.
It would create a “cap-and-trade” system whereby companies would have pollution allowances that they could sell if they went below the emission limits, or buy if they found they could not meet the requirements.
The trading is aimed at reducing the economic impact of putting limits on carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, the leading greenhouse gas.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the committee’s chairwoman, called the legislation “historic.”
But the bill’s prospects are anything but certain. It is not expected to come up for action until next year, and many Republicans have vowed to seek significant changes.
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the committee, has promised a filibuster, meaning it will take 60 votes to be approved. “I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it,” Inhofe joked after the daylong session Wednesday and scores of GOP amendments – few of them approved.
“The rejection of key amendments has guaranteed an enormous floor fight,” Inhofe said in a statement after the vote, maintaining that “many major issues were sidestepped” in committee.