Senate begins debate on Lieberman-Warner climate bill — sort of
After last night’s cloture vote, Senate Republicans asked for 30 hours before legislatively productive debate on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act could begin. That means they spent all of today kibitzing about climate legislation without any progress toward amending or voting.
Joe Romm has been live-blogging all day over on Climate Progress, and I’ve also been following the action so you don’t have to (you’ll thank me). Here’s the top CSA news of the day, in summation:
- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Republicans for delaying and dragging out debate on the legislation. “Republicans forced us to waste two days before a vote that they overwhelmingly supported,” said Reid. “Now, our Republican friends are forcing us to burn another 30 hours of procedural time before we can begin debate. That’s two filibusters and more than three days of valuable Senate time wasted — all for a vote that most Republicans supported.”
- George Voinovich (R-Ohio), sponsor of his own industry-friendly alternative climate plan, discussed why he thinks the federal government should invest in technology first and put in place caps later. He said it would be an effort to help developing nations who need the technology. A more cynical read might be that it reflects the interests of the energy industry lobbyists that helped him write it.
- Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) talked about the strain that $4-a-gallon-plus gas prices have put on the wallets of his constituents, and talked up why the Senate should pass a bill that will help move America away from reliance on oil. “The answer is not just drill,” said Nelson. “The answer is alternative energy sources.”
- Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) bemoaned the fact that the bill as is doesn’t contain explicit support for the nuclear power industry. Lieberman and Warner have already floated an amendment [PDF] that would add such support, but Isakson is pretty livid that it’s not in the main bill. “If it’s part of the solution, why is it not a part of the Lieberman-Warner climate legislation?” he asked, accusing those who don’t want such language in the bill of “bias.” He also said he’s going to propose an amendment to include $25 billion in tax credits for the preservation of open space and public lands for the purpose of sequestering carbon emissions. He does not appear aware of the fact that the bill already contains significant support for the use of offsets, much of which would go to passive sequestration in agriculture and forestry.
- Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) challenged Isakson on nukes, saying the bill already does enough for the industry without giving it preferential treatment — she pointed to the support of corporations like Exelon.
- Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) talked about the problems with the bill’s allowance allocations to entities like state governments, and argued that not enough of the auction revenues would be returned to the public. He called the bill the “mother of all earmarks” because it would bring trillions of dollars into the treasury and redistribute it to “interest groups.” He’s talked about this before, which David covered here.
- Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) talked about the amendments he’s going to propose, which include lowering the emissions reductions targets to the levels in the bill he cosponsored with Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), inserting the safety-valve also included in Bingaman-Specter, adding something about “technology acceleration,” including stronger language on “international competitiveness,” and inserting more support for coal to give it a “pathway to the future.”
- Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) equated taking action on climate change to fighting fascism, and cited all the public health and national security gains to be made by doing so. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Conn.) each spoke at length about all the scientific reasons that comprehensive, strong action is imperative now. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) talked about the concerns climate change poses for food security, and called inaction “immoral.”
- John Barrasso and Mike Enzi (both R-Wy.) each took a turn to bemoaning the possible economic ramifications of the bill, which they fear will harm industries, workers, small refineries, puppies, etc. Enzi proclaimed: “I’m not a fear-mongerer, I’m an environmentalist,” he said. But, he added, “I suspect folks in Wyoming are not willing to pay the costs of this bill.”
- Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also attempted to play compassionate conservative, claiming that this bill threatens low-income Americans, but then went on to complain about the very provisions of the bill intended to protect those consumers. Larry Craig did some concern-trolling on behalf of consumers as well: “Why don’t we call this bill the China-India Economic Stimulus Act of 2008?” asked Craig, before going on to talk about how awesome forests are because they sequester carbon. And yes, he’s still in the Senate.
- Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) admitted that we need to cap carbon emissions, but said that this bill is “too complicated, too expensive.” He also complained about the EPA’s analysis of the bill that projects a $0.53 cent increase in gasoline by 2030. For those of you counting, that’s about $0.02 a year. Meanwhile, gasoline prices have increased from $1.47 per gallon in Jan. 2001, to more than $4.00 a gallon today.
- Sponsors Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), John Warner (R-Va.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) took turns defending the legislation throughout the day.
- James Inhofe (R-Okla.) took every opportunity granted him to poo-poo the bill.
- Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) became only the second Republican of the day (after Warner, of course) to speak in favor of the legislation. “It’s a human issue, a planetary issue, a moral issue,” said Snowe. “The science of the matter tells us that business as usual is certainly not an option.”
- Snowe was later joined by Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), who also spoke in favor of the bill that she is co-sponsoring. Dole also pushed for the explicit inclusion of support for nuclear power.
- Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) vowed to introduce an amendment to strengthen the targets for emissions cuts. He also talked up energy efficiency, raising fuel economy standards, and investing in mass transit.
Those are the most interesting contributions to today’s debate, which didn’t wrap up until 9 p.m. EST. Overall, it provided insight to how the amendment process will play out. Opponents of action will paint it as a question of the economy versus the environment, and supporters will fight tooth-and-nail to prove that not only is this the bill science says we need to fight climate change, but it will help the economy, create new jobs, and improve national security.
More hot (ahem) climate action tomorrow. Stay tuned.