Prospects for using the Congress’s budget process to pass cap-and-trade legislation were extinguished on Wednesday night as the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a measure to bar that option.
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), prohibits the “use of reconciliation in the Senate for climate change legislation involving a cap and trade system” — Congress-speak for “you can’t attach cap-and-trade to the budget bill.” The amendment passed by a vote of 67-31, with 26 Democrats voting for the provision.
Johanns and his allies were critical of the idea of passing major legislation outside of normal Senate procedure, which requires 60 votes end debate on a bill; the budget process requires only simple majority votes, taking away the filibuster option and making it possible to pass a cap-and-trade measure without any Republican support (Democrats hold 58 of the Senate’s 100 seats).
Democrats who voted with Johanns were: Max Baucus (Mont.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Jim Webb (Va.).
Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who has been leading the charge to keep cap-and-trade prospects alive, noted that when Republicans controlled Congress, they used the tactic of budget reconciliation to pass a number of contentious issues.
A measure that Boxer and fellow cap-and-trade supporter Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) put forward today would have neutered the Johanns amendment, but it failed by a vote of 42-56.